Are we violating the human rights of the world's poor? Responses to four critics.
Stimulated by the challenging reactions of four critics, this essay clarifies and elaborates a view I had laid out in an earlier issue of this Journal. (1) I will begin with a brief summary account and defense of my main thesis and will then expand on various aspects of it by engaging my critics one by one.
The topic of my inquiry can be defined through three distinctions. The first distinction concerns the different ways in which individual and collective agents can be related to unfulfilled human rights. Here, first, a human rights deficit may lie beyond an agent's capacities. In such cases, the agent bears no responsibility for the deficit (insofar as it lies in the past) and has no responsibilities in regard to it (insofar as it lies in the future). Second, an agent may have the capacity to diminish a human rights deficit and may then bear some responsibility for it (by virtue of neglecting a positive duty to reduce it) or have a responsibility to alleviate it. Third, an agent may have a role in bringing about a human rights deficit and may then (by virtue of violating a negative duty not to harm) bear some responsibility for it or have a responsibility not to contribute to it in the future. I call all and only such active contributions to the nonfulfillment of human rights, when they are foreseeable and reasonably avoidable by the agent, human rights violations. And I focus on cases of this kind, in part because I share the common view that, holding fixed what is at stake for the agent and for others, negative duties not to violate human rights are more stringent than positive duties to alleviate human rights deficits.
Moving to the second distinction, both kinds of duties have both institutional and interactional applications. The fulfillment of human rights depends on institutional arrangements such as laws, rules, conventions, practices and procedures, and human agents therefore have institutional responsibilities to help ensure institutional arrangements under which human rights are fulfilled insofar as this is reasonably possible. Holding institutional arrangements fixed, the fulfillment of human rights also depends on human conduct; and human agents therefore have additional interactional responsibilities to adjust their conduct so that it helps ensure the fulfillment of human rights. Because the profound importance of institutional responsibilities is still poorly understood, my focus is on them and especially on the negative duty not to contribute to the design or imposition of institutional arrangements under which human rights foreseeably and avoidably remain unfulfilled. Slavery in the United States serves as a relevant example. This slavery was not merely a crime, practiced by slaveholders and slave traders, but also an unjust social institution, which many other citizens also helped to uphold. Unlike their affluent Swedish contemporaries, such U.S. citizens were not merely bystanders, able to relieve some of the brutality inflicted on slaves; they were playing an active role in lending strength and legitimacy to the state that enforced property rights in persons within its territory. Like slaveholders and slave traders, these other citizens were actively violating human rights, albeit institutionally. My work here focuses specifically on such institutional human rights violations.
The third distinction is that between national and supranational institutional arrangements. The last thirty years have seen the rapid emergence of a dense regime of supranational institutional arrangements that--typically negotiated among officials from several countries or emerging through their regular interactions--structure and regulate human interactions within and across their jurisdictions. As exemplified by the rules and procedures of the World Trade Organization, such supranational institutional arrangements have a profound influence on national governance and the distribution of individual life prospects. Insofar as this regime generates a reasonably avoidable excess of unfulfilled human rights, it is arguably unjust, and agents contributing to its imposition are violating human rights insofar as they can and should foresee its adverse human rights impact. Fully specified, my focus is then on human rights violations that agents commit through their joint contributions to upholding unjust supranational institutional arrangements.
The existing international discourse on human rights is focused on the interactional responsibilities of states, with heavy emphasis on their negative duty to respect, and their positive duties to protect and to fulfill, their own citizens' human rights. Some institutional responsibilities have been belatedly recognized in the wake of the United Nation's General Comment on the Right to Adequate Food, (2) which assigns states a positive duty to facilitate human rights fulfillment through appropriate institutional reforms: to "pro-actively engage in activities intended to strengthen people's access" to the objects of their human rights. I extend this thought by emphasizing that states and other human agents also have negative duties not to contribute to the design and imposition of institutional arrangements that foreseeably produce reasonably avoidable human rights deficits. In terms of content, this duty does not add anything to the now-recognized duty to facilitate.
But as a negative duty, it has much greater stringency, which persists undiminished as one moves from friends and neighbors to distant strangers: while positive duties to promote human rights fulfillment may be much stronger to those close to us than to distant foreigners, no similar gradient exists for negative duties not to harm. The recognition of negative duties not to contribute to the design and imposition of supranational institutional arrangements that are not human-rights compliant discloses then the real possibility that we--reasonably well-off citizens of affluent countries--are involved in large-scale institutional violations of the human rights of distant foreigners whose deprivations we are inclined to relegate to the bottom of our moral priority list.
Readily available evidence suggests that basic social and economic human rights remain unfulfilled for roughly half the world's population and that the design of supranational institutional arrangements plays a major role in explaining why the poorest segment of humanity is suffering a rapid decline in its share of global household income. The latest figures from Branko Milanovic, then principal economist in the World Bank's Development Research Group, show that the global household income share of the three poorest deciles of humanity declined from 1.52% in 1988 to 1.25% in 2008. This implies that the 2008 income share of the world's poorest 2 billion people would have been over 21 percent higher, if these three deciles had in the preceding 20 years participated proportionately in global economic growth. There is much celebration of the great efforts the world has supposedly made--in connection with the Millennium Development Goals, for instance--to "lift people out of poverty." But, clearly, the effect of all this heavy lifting was overwhelmed by structural forces working to magnify global inequality. Milanovic's data show that the richest five percent of the world's population increased their share of global household income from 42.87% in 1988 to 45.75% in 2008.* 4 Had this substantial shift of nearly three percent of global household income gone to humanity's poorer half instead, it would have easily sufficed to end severe poverty on this planet.
The judgment that these trends really are substantially driven by the great importance that decisions about the design of supranational institutional arrangements have been acquiring is further supported by data about the richest segment of the U.S. population. This elite group has the best opportunities to shape supranational rules in its favor because the U.S. government is still the dominant force in international negotiations and because U.S. politicians are extraordinarily dependent on private money and therefore especially easy targets for successful lobbying. Looking just at the richest 1/100 percent of the U.S. population, we find that it increased its share of national household income from 0.86 percent in 1978 to 5.47 percent in 2012--gaining 539% over and above the rise in the U.S. average in come. (5) These 31,000 people now have about half as much income as the poorer half (155 million) of Americans and about the same income as the poorest 35% (2.5 billion people) of humankind. (6) The dramatic ascendancy of this group after a steady 50-year decline illustrates the importance of the supranational institutional arrangements that have emerged with such profound influence in the globalization period following the end of the Cold War. These arrangements are, in the first instance, the work of the more powerful states, which dominate the creation and revision of supranational rules and also exert pressure toward accession and compliance. But then the rule-shaping conduct of these states is itself shaped by their most influential constituents, the top executives and shareholders of the larger enterprises. These constituents are not hostile to the world's poor, they merely seek to bend supranational rules in their own favor so as to capture a larger share of global income for their firms and themselves. And they are quite successful at this game. The investment research firm Strategas has been selecting, in each calendar quarter, those ten percent of companies in the S&P 500 index that spend the most on lobbying as a percentage of their assets. The "Strategas Lobbying Index" tracks the investment returns that would be realized by investing and re-investing, each calendar quarter, equal amounts into these fifty biggest spenders on lobbying. This investment strategy would have outperformed the S&P 500 by an amazing 11% annually over the 2002-11 period.
Academic research consolidates these findings. In a well-known study, the average return from corporate lobbying has been estimated to be $220 for every dollar "invested." (8) This academic study focused specifically on the (misnamed) American fobs Creation Act of 2004, which temporarily enabled US corporations to save 85% of the tax normally payable on dividends received from a foreign subsidiary, thereby effectively reducing their tax on corporate profits realized abroad from 35% to 5.25%. (9) This victory is a good example of how the benefits firms obtain by lobbying are often associated with losses imposed on poor populations: the purchased tax holiday was directly related to the tax-dodging strategies that U.S. multinationals practice in the less developed countries. To avoid paying taxes on their profits abroad, most multinationals use various accounting gimmicks--such as mispriced transactions among subsidiaries involving goods, services and intellectual property--to shift their profits to specially created subsidiaries in tax havens. (10) Such strategies for dodging foreign taxes are, however, lucrative only insofar as these profits can eventually be repatriated to the U.S. at a tax rate that is substantially lower than the tax rates on corporate profits in the relevant foreign country. This is precisely what tax holidays such as the American Jobs Creation Act allow. (11) Without the prospect of such tax holidays, the main reason multinationals now have for using tax havens would disappear, as taxes paid abroad could then be subtracted from the U.S. taxes they owe. It would be pointless to cheat less developed countries out of taxes due on profits there because any money so saved would only increase the firm's tax liability in the U.S.
Given that the U.S. political system renders its officials highly exposed to lobbying, and given that the U.S. government has been dominant in supranational rule making, it is not surprising that supranational institutional arrangements tend to serve the interests of (mostly U.S.-based) multinational corporations, banks, hedge funds, industry associations and extremely wealthy individuals. It is clear that when such highly privileged agents expand their share, others must suffer a corresponding decline. And it is foreseeable that this decline is likely to hit hardest those who are least able to defend their interests with words and action: the world's poor. Their deprivations and lack of resources make it especially hard for them to divert efforts to political action. This problem is compounded by several special factors concerning international deliberations and decision making: many poor countries are excluded from effective participation in the important fora such as the W.T.O., the U.N. and its related organizations including the I.M.F. and the World Bank; intergovernmental negotiations are highly nontransparent so that the adoption of rules harmful to the poor often cannot be traced to specific lobbies or lobbied negotiators; and powerful moral arguments can typically be sidelined by proclaiming that we cannot afford to make concessions to morality in the dangerously competitive world of international relations where our rivals may well take advantage of our self-restraint. To be sure, such proclamations are rarely convincing. The U.S. could certainly make efforts to get the more powerful states to agree to take into account the vital interests of poor populations in international decision making--starting with an agreement to commission careful independent assessments of how proposed treaties and other supranational rules and rule changes would affect poverty worldwide. But references to the "jungle" of international relations apparently suffice nonetheless to satisfy politicians, economic elites, media and the general public in more affluent countries that what they do to the world's poor is morally acceptable.
My essay directly attacks this satisfaction. It argues that the more powerful states, which dominate the design and worldwide imposition of the new and still emerging supranational institutional order, bear a collective responsibility for the persistence of severe poverty. They are collectively responsible for that substantial part of the worldwide human rights deficit that would not exist if they were reliably committed against imposing supranational institutional arrangements that are foreseeably noncompliant with human rights. Implicated in this responsibility of states are the relevant state officials and those who work hard to influence these officials toward adopting rules that benefit corporate elites at the expense of poor populations. Similarly implicated are also ordinary members of influential democratic states. As citizens with voting rights and the rights of freedom of speech, press and peaceful assembly, we bear ultimate political responsibility for what our country does in our name; and as workers and taxpayers we constitute and contribute the economic and military strength that enables our government to play an important role in the design and imposition of supranational rules and regimes. Given the great and avoidable harms these rules and regimes foreseeably inflict on the world's poor, we collaboratively violate their human rights on a massive scale. We can end our role in this injustice either by successfully pressuring our government to be supportive of an institutional realization of human rights or by continuously compensating for our share of the harm we collectively cause through private efforts such as donations to effective NGOs. The former is the better route because it holds out the prospect of ending poverty once and for all. But given its uncertainty, we should pursue the latter route as well, by directly eradicating severe poverty at a rate that would lead to its full eradication if others similarly placed did their fair share as well.
With this thumbnail sketch of my position as background, I now take a close look at the challenging reactions my critics have composed.
RESPONSE TO ROB REICH ON THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF ORDINARY CITIZENS
I think about individual responsibility for global injustice primarily in first-person terms: what must I do to fulfill at least my negative duties not to harm? If my thoughts on this question have any plausibility, they can perhaps help others reach an understanding of their own negative responsibilities.
Reich is right to stress that institutional injustice is the fundamental obstacle to the realization of human rights in the modern world. But it does not follow that, when seeking to fulfill my negative responsibilities not to harm, I should exclusively or even mainly aim to reduce or eliminate institutional injustice. This does not follow because I may not be materially able to reduce the institutional injustice I am implicated in. When this is so, political reform efforts, no matter how costly to oneself, do not discharge one's negative responsibilities. One is then reduced to the other two options.
Under Nazi rule, there was no realistic prospect of political reform. The Scholl siblings nonetheless tried this route, by distributing leaflets. They were quickly caught, then convicted and guillotined four days later. (12) Their conduct was certainly heroic, but it did not protect those whose lives were threatened by the Nazis. Convinced that political confrontation was futile, Willy Brandt went into early exile in Scandinavia. (13) His conduct, too, did not protect the victims of the Nazis. But at least he did not contribute to the coming violence as his flight saved him from being conscripted into the German Reichswehr or interned in a labor camp. Oskar Schindler took the third route. He remained in Germany, a member of the NSDAP, and ran a factory producing enamelware and (at the end) munitions for the German army. (14) This contribution to the German war effort enabled him to save some 1,200 Jews from being murdered.
Reich likens those who choose the third route (compensation) to a rich man who is sitting astride a poor man's back and mopping the poor man's brows rather than getting off his back. But this analogy is misleading in two ways. First, in contrast to slavery, the burdens on poor people today--say on Bangladeshi garment workers--are not controlled by a single person but imposed through structural conditions jointly upheld by many. Of course, these many could and should "get off the back" of the Bangladeshi garment workers. But none of them can remove the burden single-handedly. I can only work toward political reform, and even my best efforts may come to naught. Second, I can, through an effective NGO perhaps, free some Bangladeshi garment workers from their oppression; I can ensure, for instance, that they learn computer skills and get stable jobs with decent firms that outsource work to Bangladesh. (15) Achieving this, I do not merely provide small mercies to oppressed people but end the oppression of some. If many more of the world's affluent were to engage in such effective compensation, there would be much less poverty and oppression. When the prospects of successful political reform are highly uncertain, I think I ought also to make (more achievable) compensation efforts so as to make sure of fulfilling my negative responsibilities.
I agree with Reich that emigration--including internal self-exile ("going off the grid")--is an inferior option because, unlike political reform and compensation, it typically does nothing for the poor and oppressed. Still, Reich may overstate the case in two respects. First, there are exceptions. In cases where the harm is proportional to contributions, my abstention may really make a difference, albeit a tiny one diffused over large numbers of victims. (16) Those who pollute less thereby do make climate change a little less harmful. And those who went to Canada to avoid the draft thereby did make the US war in Vietnam a little shorter and less ferocious. Second, the question under consideration specifically concerns negative responsibilities (our "complicity footprint"), and these are reduced by self-exile. Even if those who went to Canada had made no difference at all to the war, they surely did not have the same complicity in this war as those who allowed themselves to be conscripted and ordered to fight there. The harm done to Vietnam's population must be attributed to those who participated in inflicting this harm--soldiers, pilots, generals, navigators, politicians, munitions workers, other members of the US workforce--roughly in proportion to what each contributed to sustaining the violence. Those US citizens who sat out the war in Canada, like ordinary Canadians, typically made no such material contribution to the war and thus avoided complicity.
I agree then with Reich that a person's complicity footprint does not depend on this person's income alone. Surely someone who works to reform some unjust institutional arrangement is less complicit than one who actively contributes to upholding it. I remain unconvinced, however, on the relevance of intentions (foregrounded by Reich) and other inner states. Suppose two citizens contribute to building and sustaining popular support for a war their country is fighting abroad. Ann does so intending thereby to promote justice, Bob to promote U.S. interests. The war is in fact not promoting justice but rather massively violating human rights, though elaborate misinformation conceals this fact from Ann and many others. Clearly, Ann is pro tanto a better, less blameworthy person than Bob. But is she less complicit than Bob in the human rights violations to which both are contributing equally? Am I less complicit in my country's unjust foreign policy than other philosophy professors merely because I am--ineffectually--opposed to it? I believe that the right answer to these questions is "no." I intend in the near future to work out in greater detail how responsibility for harm that many produce together should be allocated among them -how much of this harm each would need to avert in order to fulfill her or his negative responsibility.
RESPONSE TO ALISTAIR MACLEOD ON THE DEFINITION AND SPECIAL WEIGHT OF VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS
MacLeod focuses on how I seek to distinguish human rights violations within the larger class of unfulfilled human rights. He understands me to do this through three necessary and jointly sufficient conditions. Unfulfilled human rights involve human rights violations just in case there are agents or agencies that (i) "are causally responsible for (i.e., make a causal contribution to) the 'non-fulfillment' of the right"; (17) (ii) are "morally responsible (and thus morally to blame) for the non-fulfillment of the right because they 'foreseeably and avoidably' contributed to the non-fulfillment of the right"; (18) and (iii) are "in breach of a negative human-rights-correlative duty." (19) MacLeod's main conclusion is that I should drop the third condition.
While I use the word "contribution" in the narrow sense of active contribution, MacLeod uses the word in a broader sense reflecting "but-for causation" (20): for an agent to be a contributor to a harm, it must merely be true that there was some other way this agent could have acted with the result that this harm would not have occurred. Using the word in MacLeod's sense, we can then formulate our difference this way: while I hold that a human rights violation requires an agent who makes an active contribution to a human right being unfulfilled (in breach of a negative duty), MacLeod holds that passive contributions ("omissions") to a human right being unfulfilled (in breach of a positive duty) should also qualify as human rights violations when condition (ii) is met.
Here is a case where the difference would matter. Jill is a prominent white scientist, living in a rich suburb of a city in which she is highly respected. One night she gets up around 2 a.m. for a snack and sees from her back window that two policemen are aggressively accosting a black teenager who is walking by. The teenager is entirely peaceful, but the officers start slapping, taunting and punching him. Jill considers opening her window and calling attention to herself so the cops would know they are being observed and stop. But instead she just continues watching how the youth is beaten quite severely. Jill films the beating with her cell phone. But she keeps this recording and her observations of the whole incident to herself even after she reads a totally false report about it in the newspaper and then learns that the young man, Sam, faces serious criminal charges based on the testimony of the policemen. As a result of Jill's inaction, Sam is convicted of attacking a police officer and resisting arrest. Assuming that the cost to Jill of intervening during the beating and later during Sam's trial is negligible, Jill has clearly acted very badly. But has she violated Sam's human rights?
I think the majority of competent English speakers would side with me, against MacLeod, in judging that Jill, though she has wrongfully failed to prevent violations of Sam's human rights, has not herself violated his human rights. To them, the word "violate" indicates an active contribution. Limiting the use of the word in this way makes sense in view of the special "negative evaluative force of the term 'violated,'" in conjunction with the widespread belief that active contributions to harm are morally worse than passive ones when other things, and particularly what is at stake for all involved, are equal. While Jill acted very badly, the police officers acted much worse, or so most of us believe.
Because they reject this ordinary moral differentiation, certain consequentialists may want to extend the use of the expression "human rights violation" to Jill's conduct. MacLeod offers a different reason, namely that some cases of passive contribution are morally worse than some cases of active contribution. This is certainly so. Willfully denying one person the right to vote is a lesser wrong (breach of human rights) than passing up an easy opportunity to rescue 1000 people from excruciating torture by some distant dictatorship. So in asserting the greater stringency of negative duties, I try always to add an other-things-being-equal clause which stipulates that the costs and benefits to the protagonists must be the same. Thus I write in the essay: "Other things equal, it is worse to let an injustice persist if one is complicit in it than if one is merely an uninvolved bystander. If the injustice manifests itself in human rights deficits, then one is a human rights violator in the first case but not in the second." (22) The ordinary use of the expression can then be defended. We call active contributions to human rights deficits violations to indicate that they are worse than their passive-contribution counterparts. We do not thereby suggest that each active contribution is worse than any passive one. Our use of "human rights violation" resembles then the ordinary use of adjectives like "large" and "small": to be a large hamster, one needs to be larger than the small hamsters, but not larger than the small elephants.
There is finally also an important political dimension to this question. My central ambition is to convince citizens of affluent countries that our governments and most of us are actively contributing to the persistence of massive human rights deficits in the developing world and are therefore human rights violators. This central point would be obscured, and perhaps lost, if I also sought to expand the ordinary conception of "human rights violation." To be sure, this ordinary conception should be revised if it is untenable. But this response has tried to show that it is not.
RESPONSE TO RICHARD ARNESON ON CONSENT BY THE VICTIMS AND ON MEMBERS' RESPONSIBILITY FOR GROUP ACTION
Arneson presents two distinct challenges. The first attacks my claim that, leaving positive duties aside, affluent countries are harming poor people in the less developed countries by imposing upon them unjustly onerous terms of trade. (23) Arneson does not dispute that the trade regime in question is avoidably onerous, foreseeably leaving many people deeply impoverished and unable to meet their basic needs. But he holds that, so long as the poor accept the regime and are no worse off than they would be without it, this regime is not unjust and its imposition not a case of harming.
Arneson illustrates his point with a stylized example of a prosperous France and poor Africa. Absent positive duties to help the Africans, it is permissible for the French to offer terms of interaction that are strongly slanted in their own favor. So long as the Africans accept these terms and are not rendered worse off by the interaction, they are not being harmed by the French and not being subjected to unjust terms of interaction.
Arneson writes that "this simple point immediately casts a dark shadow on Pogge's account of how the global international order harms the poor." (24) But I think this shadow is not as long, nor as dark as he imagines. It is not long because Arneson would have a hard time showing that the terms of interaction imposed upon the world's poor meet his two conditions: that these terms are accepted by the poor and also render the poor no worse off than they would be in the absence of interaction. The first condition is generally unfulfilled in cases where the acceptance comes from a ruler who lacks democratic legitimacy: the fact that Sani Abacha had signed a resource extraction agreement with the French does not show that the Nigerian people have accepted its terms. And the second condition is also often unfulfilled as the Nigerian people lose their national resources, suffer severe ecological damage, and find their tyrant strengthened by the money and weapons the French give him in exchange for oil. While millions die each year from poverty-related causes and hundreds of millions live in life-threatening poverty, we cannot be confident that the poor are no worse off than they would be without interaction with the affluent countries.
The shadow of Arneson's point is also not as dark as he imagines because this point lacks moral credibility. Apart from the authority of Robert Nozick, liberally cited, Arneson provides no support for it. One reason to reject the Nozick-Arneson point is the fact that it would justify slavery. Suppose the Africans are in extreme peril that the French are able, but have no duty, to relieve. In this case, the Africans may rationally accept enslavement if the French require this as a condition of rescue. Would the resulting slavery regime therefore be just? Would its maintenance by the French involve no harming of the enslaved Africans? Nozick, of course, happily embraces an affirmative answer and explicitly endorses slavery voluntarily entered into." (26) But slavery is widely regarded as a paradigm instance of unjust terms of interaction--regardless of how it had once come about. "I disagree," writes Arneson. (27) But, since he offers no reason for his disagreement, I feel free to adhere to the majority view: slavery can be unjust, and its imposition a harm, even if the slaves had once accepted it and are no worse off than they would have been had they instead refused to accept their enslavement. (28)
Arneson's second challenge concerns the transition from collective to individual responsibility. Suppose that the global institutional order does much grave harm and that we privileged citizens of the affluent countries are collectively responsible for this harm. Even then, so writes Arneson, "nothing immediately follows" about individual responsibility because "in determining what moral constraints apply to an individual and what it is all things considered morally permissible, optional, and required for her to do, the operative idea is counterfactual dependency--what difference would it make if the agent did this rather than some other action available to her. Actual causation is pretty much irrelevant, at most a minor consideration." (29) Really? Consider an armed gang that invades a village and kills all its inhabitants; suppose further that each member of the gang can truthfully say that the harm would have been exactly the same in his absence. Does none of them bear any individual responsibility for his participation in the massacre? I propose to avoid this absurd conclusion by requiring that, if a group is collectively responsible for a harm, then some members of this group must be individually responsible for fractions of this harm which add up to at least the full amount of harm inflicted by the group.
The U.S. government could not impose global rules that are harmful to many poor people in the developing world if it lacked the material and moral support of at least a sizable minority of the U.S. adult population. Because the U.S. government's imposition of unjust rules actually has much higher support, most of its U.S. supporters make no marginal contribution to the harm these rules inflict. Nonetheless, in analogy to the massacre case, we must conclude that these symmetrically-placed supporters are individually responsible for fractions of the total harm which add up to at least the full amount of harm they together inflict.
RESPONSE TO ANN CUDD ON THE CHALLENGES OF FORMULATING A PROMISING REFORM AGENDA
Cudd points out that citizens working toward supranational institutional reform face three formidable challenges. There is the epistemic challenge of working out what alternative institutional designs would in fact eradicate or optimally reduce the massive human rights deficits associated with the present global order. There is the feasibility challenge of designing supranational institutions that would actually work well, by attracting sufficient compliance and long-term political support. And there is the collectivity problem of uniting, behind one institutional reform agenda, sufficiently many individuals to have a reasonable chance of realizing this agenda.
In regard to all three challenges, it helps to think of reform as involving not the replacement of the present global order with some alternative system, but piecemeal implementation with a lot of careful observation and analysis. This makes the prospect of reform less daunting by integrating it into the ongoing ordinary business of governments creating and revising supranational agreements. The crucial new element would be that intergovernmental negotiators would, under constant pressure from citizens worldwide, take a more impartial view of their mandate: they would aim for supranational institutional arrangements that are just (human rights compliant) rather than ones that serve their respective domestic elites.
Such gradualism helps with the epistemic problem insofar as relatively small reform ideas are much easier to assess and also much less risky. Here it makes sense initially to mobilize political support for reform projects whose relative impact is easier to assess. (31) In addition, early reform projects should satisfy three further criteria. For the sake of feasibility, new institutional arrangements should cohere well with the larger institutional architecture both as it exists now and as it may exist after a significant series of institutional reforms. Early reform projects should be ones that can also attract substantial prudentially motivated support. And they should also be such that their achievement would facilitate the achievement of subsequent reforms that would further reduce the injustice of the global institutional order. An example of a reform that does well in terms of all four criteria is the Health Impact Fund proposal. (32) Another example is the sidelining of tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions. These facilitate international criminal activity (human and drug trafficking, terrorism). They also stimulate huge drains of capital from developing countries, as well as revenue losses from developing and affluent countries through tax evasion, trade misinvoicing, embezzlement and other forms of corruption.
The gradualism described also helps with the collectivity challenge. It is much easier to get others to agree on a relatively small institutional reform (such as the Health Impact Fund) than on an entire alternative global order. The political mobilization required to realize such a limited institutional reform is also much smaller. A remaining difficulty, however, is that of agreeing on a plausible sequence of reforms. This has been a great political weakness of the global justice movement: that we have spread our political efforts over many good reform ideas. We should instead bring our best ideas into a plausible implementation sequence and then focus our combined political strength on one reform at a time. After its (much more likely) success, we would then be able to carry the momentum into the next reform effort.
Even small supranational or national institutional design successes--completing a reform project on the gradualist agenda, or averting or weakening a "reform" that would place additional burdens on the poor--can have substantial impact. But then such successes also typically presuppose extensive collaboration; very few of us can attain a position where we can achieve such a success single-handedly. This makes us hostage to unfortunate circumstances. If the political climate is by and large supportive of the institutional arrangements our governments are imposing upon the world, then there may be nothing we can do politically to affect the reigning globalization agenda. We may then be reduced to the compensation option of helping to protect a few poor people from severe harms they would otherwise suffer. This may be "a less effective contribution than we might have hoped for"; (33) and one may end up reducing the global burdens of poverty by less than one millionth of one percent. Still, given the overall magnitude of the problem, even so small an achievement is quite substantial in human terms and can offset one's own similarly fractional contribution to the (re)production of poverty. If we do this work explicitly to reduce harms we are also contributing to, we may thereby spread awareness of the injustice of existing institutional arrangements and inspire a greater willingness to help with their reform.
Comments by Rob Reich (1)
Can Charitable Compensation Diminish Complicity?
Thomas Pogge's prize-winning paper presents an argument for the arresting claim that the great suffering and needs of the global poor constitute for citizens of developed countries not merely a humanitarian obligation but something far worse: a collaboratively imposed evil. Or less dramatically: a massive, foreseeable, and preventable injustice. Because the numbers of the poor are so large and because our role in creating and sustaining desperate poverty is allegedly causal--by collaboratively imposing upon the poor a set of unjust global institutions--the rights violations we wealthy citizens of advanced industrialized countries perpetrate are are gargantuan and barbaric, almost certainly the worst in human history. Pogge says that we--that you and I--are guilty of violating the human rights of the poor.
I'll suppose that Pogge's controversial argument goes through, and I'll examine what the argument implies for how we can fulfill our duty not to violate the human rights of the world's poor. At the end of his paper, Pogge writes "We have a duty not to collaborate in the design or imposition of social institutions that foreseeably cause a human rights deficit that is reasonably avoidable through better institutions--unless we fully compensate for our fair share of the avoidable human rights deficit." (2) He argues that we can avoid sharing responsibility for the human rights violations by donating money to effective aid organizations. I contest this conclusion.
POGGE'S ARGUMENT IS CORRECT; NOW WHAT?
Let us accept Pogge's main argument that we are indeed violating the human rights of the world's poor. The reason: we collaboratively design and impose supranational institutional arrangements that we intend, foresee, or should foresee, will avoidably deprive human beings of secure access to their human rights. What are we to do? How can we reduce or eliminate --to borrow a phrase from Eric Beerbohm's recent book, In Our Name: the ethics of democracy (3)--our "complicity footprint?"
In a brief final section of his paper, Pogge gives three possible answers. First, he says that citizens of Western states should commit themselves to collective political or social action so that politicians will act to reform supranational institutions in such a way as to eliminate the human rights violations of the world's poor. Pogge observes that there is no such citizen majority in any democracy that would bring about such reform and that the prospects for creating social movements to create such a majority are negligible. So second, Pogge suggests that citizens "could emigrate to one of the poorer countries, thereby disconnecting themselves from their erstwhile country's policies and marginally weakening this country." (4) But Pogge realizes how unlikely this is to occur, and anyway claims that there is "a far better way for citizens to avoid sharing responsibility for the human rights violations their government is committing in their name." (5) So third, Pogge says individuals can compensate for their fair share of the avoidable human rights deficit. They can do this by donating money to effective international aid agencies or non-governmental organizations, and Pogge offers some tentative suggestions about just how much money to give. Pogge says an individual who compensates in this way avoids sharing responsibility for the human rights violations her government is committing in her name.
I have two points to make. First, I dispute Pogge's second and third options. I argue that emigration can be morally cowardly rather than heroic, and I reject the assertion that compensation can be a mechanism to avoid shared responsibility for the human rights violations. Compensating the poor may be morally desirable, even obligatory, but that compensation by itself reduces or eliminates our complicity footprint seems to me a mistake. Second, I question Pogge's apparent attribution of roughly equal responsibility for human rights violations to most citizens. I call attention to the model of shared responsibility that animates Pogge's view and I suggest better alternatives.
POGGE'S THREE OPTIONS
What should citizens of the United States or the European Union make of Pogge's three options of what to do in the face of their considerable complicity footprint in violating the human rights of the global poor. My view is that what follows from Pogge's argument is a duty to act politically, to try and bring about institutional change, his first option. We have a primary duty to pursue justice, where justice is construed as the establishment of just global institutions that eliminate any causal contribution to desperate global poverty. On this score, Pogge agrees. What I dispute is the claim that the emigration or the compensation options follow from his argument.
Consider first the emigration option. Pogge sees emigration as a means to exculpate oneself from complicity in the human rights violations of one's country. Where governments act in our name, and when we cannot successfully bring about political reform, we can renounce membership in our homeland and thereby eliminate our individual responsibility. Recognizing, however, the personal cost of emigrating, Pogge seems to view such an act as morally heroic. But I think it possible to see emigration more as a self-interested and ineffective act of moral cowardice. It represents an effort to cleanse one's own hands while leaving wholly intact the very system that dirtied them in the first place. Emigration does nothing to improve the condition of the poor. At best, it is a symbolic act, signaling to one's fellow citizens the injustice that one refuses to have committed in one's own name.
A magnificent short story by Ursula LeGuin, "The Ones Who Walk Away From Ornelas" illustrates my point. (6) LeGuin imagines a supremely happy small town, Ornelas. It is a utopia, but the maintenance of its utopian state depends on the imprisonment and neglect of an innocent child, kept in a prison cell beneath the city. If anyone ever helps the child, the utopian character of the city disappears instantaneously. The citizens of Ornelas have a festival once a year to celebrate their great happiness. The festival requires them visually to acknowledge the child in the underground cell and confront the terms of their city's social contract. The story's final sentences --and its title--refer to the few people who every year walk away from Ornelas after the festival, renouncing their happiness because of the injustice of the foundation on which it is built. Are the ones who walk away heroes or cowards? LeGuin does not say, but I view them as cowards, for they do nothing to change the condition of the child, nothing to alter the fundamental injustice of the city. Perhaps we should view Pogge's emigrants in the same way.
Emigration does not alter the institutional arrangements that produce the injustice and elevates the moral purity of the individual over the admittedly messy and uncertain efforts of collective action, political movement building, and actual reform or transformation of institutional arrangements. In Pogge's terms, emigration creates interactional innocence by fully detaching oneself from the unjust institutional arrangements. But why should we prefer interactional innocence that simply leaves intact the unjust arrangements and, more to the point, the very harms that these institutional arrangements cause to the poor? There is a case to be made for remaining in Ornelas, not emigrating in order to undertake long-term, highly uncertain, political movement building.
Perhaps Pogge would accept this. Do not emigrate and avail oneself of what he calls a better way to avoid sharing responsibility for human rights violations. Pay a fair share to compensate for the harms caused by the institutional arrangements sustained by one's country and carried out in one's name. What then of the compensation option?
Unlike the emigration option, I do not dispute that compensation is a morally recommendable, even obligatory, act. What I reject is the claim that compensation is sufficient, on its own and on Pogge's own terms, to avoid sharing responsibility for the human rights violations in the first place. Compensation may be desirable because it holds out the humanitarian promise of improving the welfare of severely poor people. But compensation does not diminish or excuse culpability for the injustice of the institutional arrangements imposed in one's name. Pogge too quickly leaps to the conclusion that financial compensation could enable citizens to avoid shared responsibility. In a nutshell, Pogge mistakenly asks charity to correct an injustice.
The compensation option is in deep tension with Pogge's most important claim, namely that we are guilty of massive institutional injustice in harming the poor. Pogge suggests that an individual charitable or philanthropic act (even if obligatory, not voluntary) can compensate for or mitigate an institutional injustice, that charity is the appropriate exculpating response to one's responsibility for injustice.
Consider several reasons why compensation is a problematic option.
First, Pogge's own views about official development aid suggest a problem with individual fair share compensation. Pogge says of development aid that it is "neither cost-effective nor sustainable" (30). Why should we believe anything different about individual compensation?
Second, Pogge's compensation scheme is mismatched with demands of justice, with the negative duty not to impose harms on others. I fail to see how payment to any international nongovernmental organization that will help alleviate severe poverty can ever undo the injustice of what caused the poverty in the first place. Fair share compensation temporarily improves the condition of the desperately poor, leaving fully intact the collaboratively imposed institutional injustice that will, over time, continue to cause violate the rights of the poor and do so in a way that will culpably implicate the donor, for these injustices will continue to be carried out in his name. Pogge wrongly asks charity to act in the register of justice.
I think of the parable of the wealthy man who is riding on the back of a poor man, causing the poor man to be slower, causing him not to be able to walk as far or as long as others. People all around ask what's wrong with the poor man, why he is so slow. They take pity on him. So too does the wealthy man on his back. The wealthy man keeps offering to mop his brow and give him a drink of water. But what the poor man actually needs is for the wealthy man to get off his back. Giving the poor man water improves his welfare but does not diminish the wealthy man's culpability for being on the poor man's back in the first place.
Perhaps Pogge would resist the accusation that he views charity as a suitable substitute for justice. Perhaps he views fair share compensation not as charity but as a form of reparative justice, where individuals aim to do their part to repair the harms done by the collaboratively imposed global institutional regime.
I doubt, however, that the concept of reparative justice can gain traction in the case of global poverty. Reparative justice aspires to restore victims to a pre-harm baseline, but no individual compensation can restore all victims to a pre-harm baseline. More important, no individual contribution construed as reparative justice would reform the humans-rights-violating, collaborative imposed unjust institutional regime. Therefore, despite the fair share compensation, the policies carried out in one's name, and for which citizens share responsibility, will continue to cause global poverty. Compensation does not attack the root cause of poverty but merely temporarily relieves the desperate condition of those very badly off. In short, fair share compensation does not seem capable of restoring victims to a pre-harm baseline. (7)
Third, endorsing compensation pulls individuals away from their first and primary duty to act politically, even in the face of uncertain success and long time horizons for change. Citizens confront opportunity costs in their finite time and financial resources, so allocating these to compensation comes into inevitable tension with political organizing for institutional reform. Rather than compensating, why not give one's fair share to a domestic political organization agitating for institutional change, to a candidate who pledges to attempt to reform supranational institutions? By endorsing compensation as a fully responsibility-eliminating action, Pogge provides a reason for citizens who face opportunity costs in allocating their time and money with reason to opt for compensation over attempts at political reform because compensation is allegedly a fully responsibility-eliminating option.
Consider a citizen who, in her political activity, votes for a politician who does nothing to push for reforming the unjust supranational institutions that cause a significant amount of severe global poverty. She shares responsibility, on Pogge's account, for the human rights violations of the severely poor. She is riding on the back of the poor, actively harming them. But she is moved by their plight and mops their brow by donating a significant amount of money to effective NGOs that aim to alleviate poverty. She fails to act politically to overcome the problem, yet she does act purposefully as an individual to alleviate poverty. Pogge appears to think this citizen no longer shares responsibility for the human rights violations. But giving private charity does not relieve an individual from the duty to oppose unjust institutions, does not relieve an individual of the shared responsibility for the harms caused by these unjust institutions.
Or consider a slightly different case. Imagine a second citizen who pays her fair share of compensation and yet votes for politicians whom she knows will oppose reform of the supranational institutions that cause poverty. Pogge appears to think this citizen exculpates herself as equally as the first citizen. But I think this must be false, for the second citizen fails in her duty to aim for political reform. The second citizen is a walking contradiction.
So I reject the claim that compensation morally exculpates. At best, it is a second-best or third-best response to the injustice of the global poor. Endorsing compensation as an exculpating response to injustice is to commit, as John Stuart Mill put it, "the great error of reformers and philanthropists ... to nibble at the consequences of unjust power, instead of redressing the injustice itself." (8)
DIFFERENTIAL COMPLICITY FOOTPRINTS
The discussion of the two citizens above leads me to my final point. I think these two citizens, in light of their different political engagements and attitudes, are differentially responsible. They share responsibility for the human rights violations of the poor, but not equally. If compensation is required of them, their fair shares are not only a function, as Pogge argues, of their per capita income, but also of their different levels of responsibility.
I can't discern Pogge's stance on this because he appears to endorse a simple understanding of what it means to share responsibility as a citizen of a developed country for collaboratively imposing an unjust supranational institutional regime. Pogge excuses children and the domestic poor. But otherwise all are complicit. This shared responsibility arises, it seems, for reasons no more complicated than that one is a citizen of such a country, that one is associated with and thereby implicated in the policies of a country in virtue of one's status as a citizen. We act wrongly, more or less continuously, by membership alone.
The assignment of blame for violating the human rights of the global poor cannot be placed upon such a crude structure. Citizens may have different complicity footprints. If there are compensation requirements, they cannot flow from considerations just of one's income.
Consider the following possibilities:
1. A citizen jointly intends with fellow citizens to bring about or sustain global institutional injustice by voting for politicians who support the objectionable institutional regime and by supporting domestic and global policies consistent with it. These are people akin to segregationists in the South who use political means to maintain domination over blacks.
2. A citizen does not intend to bring about or sustain the institutional in justice but votes for a politician who sponsors or supports the institutional injustice. The citizen never intended the injustice but understood herself to be delegating responsibility for decisionmaking about supranational institutional design to the politician.
3. A citizen does not intend to bring about or sustain the institutional injustice; she intends the opposite and votes in favor of a politician who would act on Pogge's argument to correct this injustice. But this politician loses and a rival politician who supports the objectionable institutional regime wins. (Can this citizen say "Don't blame me?")
4. A citizen does not intend to bring about or sustain the institutional injustice; she intends the opposite and votes in favor of a politician who aims to correct the injustice; she also campaigns and agitates through civil society to create a political movement to correct the injustice. She donates money and time to a political organization that champions Pogge-preferred policies. Yet still the justice-promoting politician loses and there is no political majority in support of better institutional design.
5. A citizen neither intends to bring about or sustain the institutional injustice or to end it. She is ignorant of the matter. She votes if she pleases. She has never read Pogge.
I think the complicity footprints of these citizens are different. I can't tell if Pogge thinks these citizens are identically liable.
We need, I suggest, an account of shared responsibility in a democratic country where the behavior of politicians who act in our name is sensitive to the individual actions undertaken by citizens in their capacity as citizens, in their appropriately political efforts to correct injustices that are indeed carried out in their name. I conclude by asking: does Pogge believe he needs a more nuanced account of shared responsibility in light of these considerations?
(1.) Associate Professor of Political Science, Stanford University.
(2.) Thomas Pogge, Are We Violating the Human Rights of the World's Poor?, 14:2 Yale Hum. Rts. & Dev. L.J. 1, 32 (2011).
(3.) Eric Beerbohm, In Our Name: The Ethics of Democracy (2012).
(4.) Pogge, supra note 2, at 31.
(5.) Id. at 32.
(6.) Ursula LeGuin, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas (1993).
(7.) I leave aside the additional objection that determining the pre-harm baseline condition of the global poor is an impossible task. But without such a specification, calculating fair share contributions is likewise impossible.
(8.) John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy (1848).
Comments by Alistair M. Macleod (1)
The main thesis of Pogge's splendid and timely paper (2) is that "we" (i.e., most of us in relatively affluent democratic societies) are guilty of violating the human rights of the poor. He argues for the thesis partly on the basis of a (somewhat prescriptive) account of what it means to "violate" a human right and partly on the basis of empirical evidence that purports to show that the human rights of the poor are being "violated" (in the stipulated sense). (3) In my comments, I'll focus on the account he offers of what it means for the human rights of the poor to be "violated."
The principal distinction that is crucial to Pogge's recommended account is between the "non-fulfillment" and the "violation" of a human right. A human right goes "unfulfilled" whenever--for whatever reason the human beings who have the right do not enjoy the "object" of that right. If, e.g., the right is the right of secure access to an adequate standard of living, then--since secure access to an adequate standard of living is the "object" of the right--all human beings who lack secure access to an adequate standard of living can be described as not having that right "fulfilled." What marks off situations in which human rights are "violated" from situations in which they are (merely) "unfulfilled" is the nature of the explanation for the right going "unfulfilled."
There are, however, three strands in Pogge's account of the distinguishing features of human rights "violations." While two of these strands can be readily enough combined, I shall argue that the third cannot be successfully integrated with the other two.
The first of these strands is (what might be called) the "causal responsibility" strand, and it represents the causal relationship between the acts and omissions of human agents and agencies and the non-fulfillment of human rights as the crucial feature of human rights "violations." A human right is "violated" when it is the case both (a) that the right is "unfulfilled" and (b) that individual agents or agencies are causally responsible for (i.e., make a causal contribution to) the "non-fulfillment" of the right.
The "causal responsibility" strand plays an important role in Pogge's discussion throughout the paper, as is clearly signaled in the summary he provides in the opening paragraph of what he means by a human rights "violation." There he claims that "a human rights violation involves nonfulfillment of human rights as well as a specific causal relation of human agents to such non-fulfillment." (4) [Italics supplied.] This strand in his account provides the rationale for much of Part III, in which he sets out the "empirical evidence" for the thesis that human agents and agencies in the more affluent democratic societies "violate" the human right of the poor to an adequate standard of living. (5)
The second strand in Pogge's account (which might be dubbed the "moral responsibility" strand) calls for the fulfillment of an additional condition --viz. (c) the agents or agencies causally responsible for the "nonfulfillment" of a human right must be morally responsible (and thus morally to blame) for the non-fulfillment of the right because they "foreseeably and avoidably" contributed to the non-fulfillment of the right. (6)
The third strand in Pogge's general account of human rights "violations" reflects his insistence that they only occur when "negative" duties aren't discharged. Here the focus isn't on the causal relations that obtain between what human agents or agencies do or fail to do and nonfulfillment of a human right nor on whether they are morally responsible (and thus morally to blame) for their causal contribution to its nonfulfillment. Rather what's centrally important is whether their acts or omissions breach positive or negative duties. According to (what might be called) the "negative duty" strand in Pogge's account, it's only when a negative duty is breached that a human rights "violation" can be said to occur.
The clearest statement of the "negative duty" component in Pogge's account is to be found in the passage in Part II in which he takes up the question: "What is the relationship between the non-fulfillment of a human right and its violation?" Drawing on Article 15 of the General Comment 12 that was adopted in 1999 by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, he recognizes that "human rights may give rise to four distinct kinds of duties"--viz. "duties to respect human rights, duties to protect (secure access to the objects of) human rights, duties to provide (secure access to) the objects of human rights, and duties to facilitate human rights fulfillment." (7) He is quick to insist, however, that some breaches of these duties are not human rights violations. He consequently draws a sharp distinction between those breaches that do violate human rights and those that don't. Only duties to "respect" human rights (duties, that is, of the first of the four kinds) fall on the "negative duty" side of the line he draws, because what they require of human agents or agencies, according to Pogge, is merely that they refrain from preventing someone "from enjoying secure access to the object of a human right." (8)
Duties of the other three kinds--duties to "protect" human rights, duties to "provide" the "objects" of human rights, and duties to "facilitate" the fulfillment of human rights--all fall on the "positive" duty side, because (on Pogge's account) they all require--albeit in different ways--that human agents or agencies act in certain ways to help to bring about the "fulfillment" of human rights. The crucial cut is thus between breaches of "negative" duties and breaches of "positive" duties. (9) It's only when negative human-rights-correlative duties are breached that the breach constitutes a human rights "violation." When positive human-rights-correlative duties are breached, the breach contributes of course to the non-fulfillment of human rights but human rights are not being "violated."
Can these three strands in Pogge's account of human rights "violations" be interwoven to form a single, integrated account?
It's not difficult to see how the first two strands might be combined if as is very plausible--an agent's causal responsibility for some undesirable state of affairs (say, the state of affairs constituted by the non-fulfillment of a human right) is a necessary condition of that agent's being regarded, justifiably, as morally responsible (and morally to blame) for that state of affairs. Moreover, given Pogge's interest in identifying those situations in which human rights have been "violated," and given, in particular, the negative evaluative force of the term "violated," it seems clear that the causal responsibility strand couldn't provide a free-standing criterion for the identification of human rights "violations": there are familiar circumstances in which the acts or omissions of human agents or agencies can be causally responsible for some undesirable state of affairs without triggering any adverse judgment of these agents or agencies. Thus, it's not only that the causal responsibility and moral responsibility strands can be combined (because moral responsibility can't be justifiably assigned for an untoward state of affairs in the absence of causal responsibility for that state of affairs). It's also the case, given Pogge's interest in what counts as a human rights violation, that the causal responsibility strand in his account must be combined with the moral responsibility strand if the account is to get off the ground.
Since the first two strands in Pogge's account of human rights "violations" can be readily combined, it's natural to wonder whether the third strand too could be integrated into (what would then be) an even more complex, but now unified, account.
According to such a unified account, situations in which human rights are going "unfulfilled" would be situations in which human rights are also being "violated" only if all of three conditions were satisfied. (1) First, they would have to be situations in which acts or omissions of human agents or agencies make a causal contribution to the non-fulfillment of a human right. (2) Second, in acting or failing to act in these ways, these agents or agencies would have to be (regarded as) morally responsible (and thus subject to moral blame) for contributing causally to non-fulfillment of the right (e.g., because what they do or fail to do "foreseeably and avoidably" contributes to non-fulfillment of the right). (3) Third, the agents or agencies in question would have to be found to be in breach of a negative human-rights-correlative duty.
Although this three-condition account involves no internal inconsistency, two of Pogge's claims about human rights point to a tension between the "negative" duty condition and the two "responsibility"-related conditions.
The first of these claims is that human rights can (and do) generate both positive and negative duties. This is a claim to which Pogge commits himself quite explicitly when he sets out the four-fold classification of duties that can be correlated with human rights. (10) However, since it's only the first of the four kinds of duties--viz. duties to "respect" human rights (11)--that are classified as "negative" duties, it's clear that the "negative" duties highlighted in the third ("negative duty") condition of the composite account form only a (perhaps rather small) sub-class of human-rightscorrelative duties.
While the restrictiveness of condition (3) might well itself give rise to doubts about the "negative" duty strand, (12) these doubts are intensified when notice is taken of the second (human-rights-related) claim to which Pogge seems to be committed. This is the claim that failure to discharge positive human-rights-correlative duties--no less than failure to carry out negative human-rights-correlative duties--can be culpable or blameworthy. (13) Pogge's endorsement of this second claim isn't as explicit as his endorsement of the first, but it seems clear that, even so, it's a claim to which he is committed. (14) For example, when he refers to situations in which human rights go unfulfilled because of failure to carry out a positive human-rights-correlative duty, he characterizes the failures as "culpable" failures. (15) The use of the term "culpable" is significant because it calls into question the claim that the language of "violation" has no application to breaches of positive duties. After all, once it's conceded that judgments about the blameworthiness or culpability of such breaches can be perfectly appropriate --and given the near-equivalence of pejorative judgments of these kinds and judgments to the effect that agents or agencies have "violated" human rights--it isn't clear on what footing a principled distinction can be drawn between judgments that represent agents or agencies as "culpable" or "blameworthy" for contributing to the non-fulfillment of human rights and judgments that characterize these agents or agencies as "violating" human rights.
Pogge recognizes, then, both (i) that human rights can (and do) generate positive and negative duties, and (ii) that failure to discharge a positive duty of this sort (no less than failure to carry out a negative duty) can be morally blameworthy. Since characterization of breach of a human-rights-correlative duty in given circumstances as a "violation" of the right that is the source of the duty is simply one of a number of more or less equivalent ways of representing the agent or agency responsible for the breach as having done something reprehensible or blameworthy, it is mysterious why Pogge should suppose that talk of the "violation" of human rights is appropriate only when negative human-rights-correlative duties are breached.
Is there, then, a rationale for the inclusion of this third condition that would dispel the mystery? The only clue to a possible answer that I can locate in Pogge's paper is that the "negative duty" strand marks off a class of human-rights-correlative duties that are "more stringent" than positive human-rights-correlative duties. Thus, when Pogge is discussing the view that all citizens in a just society have a general duty to create and maintain just institutional arrangements (arrangements that, among other things, facilitate the fulfillment of human rights), he represents this positive duty stringent though he acknowledges it to be--as less stringent than "the negative duty not to collaborate in designing or imposing unjust social institutions upon other human beings." (16) As he himself puts it, the "general positive duty" citizens have "to promote the justice of social institutions for the sake of safeguarding the rights and needs of human beings anywhere" and the "negative duty not to collaborate in designing or imposing unjust social institutions upon other human beings" are duties that "differ in stringency." (17) [Italics supplied.]
This defense of the "negative duty" strand is unpersuasive for several reasons.
First, it's not at all clear that what purports to be a clear-cut distinction between two kinds of duties--the "positive" and the "negative"--can readily be mapped onto a distinction that merely highlights differences in the degree of stringency of "positive" and "negative" duties.
Second, it's not at all clear that "negative" duties as a class are in fact more stringent than "positive" duties as a class. For example, when Pogge elsewhere illustrates the distinction between positive and negative duties by contrasting the positive duty of "bystanders" to aid persons in need of assistance with their negative duty not to harm them, the claim that the negative duty is always more stringent than the positive duty is at odds with many of our ordinary judgments. Breaching what would be classifiable as a negative duty by casually destroying the sandcastle a child has laboriously constructed on a beach, while no doubt reprehensible, is much less blameworthy than failing to discharge the positive duty of rescuing the child if she is at risk of drowning in a shallow salt-water pool. Again--to take an example that relates directly to the human rights of the poor--the (positive) duty to create new international institutions (like Pogge's own Health Impact Fund (18)) to help "fulfill" the right of access of the poor to health care is arguably a more urgent duty than the negative duty to try to effect changes in TRIPS, (19) given the virtual impossibility, for the foreseeable future, of success in the effecting of the needed changes.
Third, even in those situations in which a negative human-rights-correlative duty is more stringent than a positive duty of this sort, it isn't clear why reserving the language of "violation" to express the greater culpability or blameworthiness of breach of the negative duty is thought to be either necessary or illuminating. Human rights violations can themselves be more and less blameworthy, and there is no plausible basis for distinguishing between the degrees of blameworthiness of breaches of negative human-rights-correlative duties (which, in the restrictive sense favored by Pogge, are the only breaches that count as human rights "violations") and the degrees of blameworthiness of breaches of positive human-rights-correlative duties (breaches that don't count at all, for Pogge, as human rights "violations").
Moreover, there are at least two reasons why simply eliminating the "negative duty" condition in the three-condition account of human rights violations should be accepted with equanimity. First, the remaining two (responsibility-related) conditions can readily accommodate both the view that there are positive and negative human-rights-correlative duties, and the view that the failure to discharge duties of either sort can be culpable or blameworthy (variable though the degree of culpability no doubt is in different situations). Second, elimination of the "negative duty" condition is consistent with the general thrust of Pogge's argument for the thesis that most citizens in affluent democratic societies are guilty of violating the human rights of the poor. Indeed, what its elimination would facilitate is considerable extension of the "reach" of this thesis. Instead of human rights violations being restricted to situations in which negative human-rights-correlative duties are being breached, violations could now be recognized also in situations in which there is failure to discharge positive human-rights-correlative duties. It's true that there is resistance on Pogge's part to seeing this as an advantage. Indeed he inveighs against what he claims is a tendency "to deflate the term 'human rights violation' by using it in a broad sense so that it covers all cases, or all avoidable cases, of unfulfilled human rights." He consequently sees the "negative duty" strand in his account as a means of rescuing talk about "human rights violation" from (as he puts it, in uncharacteristically colorful language) "the political preachers and media windbags ever in search of stronger expressions to show that they care more than the rest." (20) However, once it's clear that judgments accusing agents and agencies of "violating" human rights aren't in fact "stronger" than judgments representing these agents and agencies as "culpable" or "blameworthy" for contributing to the "non-fulfillment" of human rights, it also becomes clear that "the political preachers and media windbags" will have to look elsewhere for more powerful expressions of the depth of their concern for the non-fulfillment of human rights.
(1.) Emeritus Professor, Queen's University. Thanks to Colin Macleod for valuable suggestions about a draft of this paper.
(2.) Thomas Pogge, Are We Violating the Human Rights of the World's Poor?, 14:2 Yale Hum. Rts. & Dev. L.J.1 (2011).
(3.) Pogge recognizes that citizens in affluent democratic societies can "violate" the human rights of the poor both in their interactions with the poor and (more extensively) through the institutions, domestic and international, for the establishment and maintenance of which they bear responsibility:
(H)uman rights violations come in two varieties, one of which has (unsurprisingly) been overlooked. There is the interactional variety, where individual or collective human agents do things that, as they intend, foresee, or should foresee, will avoidably deprive human beings of secure access to the objects of their human rights. And there is the institutional variety, where human agents design and impose institutional arrangements that, as they intend, foresee, or should foresee, will avoidably deprive human beings of secure access to their human rights.
Id. at 18.
(4.) Id. at 1
(5.) Id. at 20-32. Whether in the event the "empirical evidence" Pogge cites in Part III suffices for the establishment of a causal connection between the acts and omissions of most ordinary citizens in the democratic societies of developed countries and violation of the human right of the poor to an adequate standard of living is at least questionable, not because of doubts about the causal contribution to this human rights deficit both of the governments of these countries and of the international agencies they have helped to create, but because serious imperfections in the ostensibly democratic institutions in these societies make it difficult to show that the acts and omissions of ordinary citizens are causally responsible for what has been done in their name.
(6.) Pogge's insistence on the "foreseeability" and "avoidability" of the causal contribution agents and agencies make to the non-fulfillment of human rights is a constantly recurring feature of his account of human rights "violations."
(7.) His endorsement of the four kinds of human-rights-correlative duties provided in Article 15 is subject to an important qualification. He dissociates himself from the Article 15 restriction of duty-bearers to states, maintaining (surely very plausibly) that the class of those who can have human-rights-correlative duties is a much larger and more diverse class and that it includes individual human agents. He also contests the assumption--again, surely quite plausibly--that "the human rights of any person normally impose counterpart duties only upon the state or states under whose jurisdiction she falls either through physical presence or through a legal bond of citizenship or residency." Id. at 5-17. (Pogge traces the classification provided in General Comment 12 back to Henry Shue's book, Basic Rights: Subsistence, Affluence, and US Foreign Policy (1980). Shue's typology was elaborated in the 1980s by Philip Alston and Asbjorn Eide before being taken up and adapted by the framers of General Comment 12.)
(8.) Pogge, supra note 2, at 9.
(9.) "The most straightforward human rights violations involve breaches of duties to respect, that is, duties not to take any measures that result in preventing a human being from having secure access to the object of a human right. As this negative formulation indicates, these are conceived as negative duties: duties that can be honored by remaining passive and can be breached only by taking action." Id. at 9 (Italics supplied. Since duties of the other three kinds require that action of some sort be taken, they are all "positive" duties for Pogge, and they can be breached without human rights being "violated."
(10.) See supra note 7 for the way in which, given his adaptation of the four-fold classification of human-rights-correlative duties in Article 15 of General Comment 12, Pogge draws the line between "negative" and "positive" duties.
(11.) It is Pogge's somewhat restrictive characterization of the duty to "respect" human rights that enables him to represent all such duties as "negative" duties. Pogge, supra note 2, at 9.
(12.) Since the ground of positive human-rights-correlative duties is the same as the ground of negative human-rights-correlative duties--both are grounded in the contribution they make to the "fulfillment" of human rights--restricting rights-"violations" to situations in which "negative" duties are breached seems arbitrary. If what is crucial to their status as "duties" is the role they play in facilitating the "fulfillment" of human rights, it seems irrelevant that they play this role in two different ways--by performing certain actions in the case of "positive" duties, and by refraining from performing certain actions in the case of "negative" duties.
(13.) Needless to say, as the moral responsibility strand in Pogge's account of human rights "violations" brings out, the breach of human-rights-correlative duties (positive or negative) can be "culpable" or "blameworthy" only if moral responsibility for the breach is properly ascribable.
(14.) Given the implausibility of trying to combine recognition of positive human-rightscorrelative duties with refusal to concede that the breach of such duties can be culpable or blameworthy, it would be entirely reasonable to assume that Pogge would endorse this second claim even if there were no evidence in the paper that he does. After all, to reject it would be to be at odds both with our understanding of the linkages there are between important items in our ordinary moral vocabulary and with the evaluative judgments they are ordinarily used to express.
(15.) "Human rights violations are not tragic events, like the destruction of a town by a meteorite, nor even culpable failures to give enough aid or protection." Pogge, supra note 1, at 18 (emphasis added). Because for Pogge both the human-rights-correlative duty to "provide" the "object" of a human right in order to secure its "fulfillment" and the duty to "protect" a human right are classified as "positive" duties, when he talks in this context of "culpable failures," the reference must be taken to be to failures to discharge "positive" duties.
(16.) The passage in which this description of the relevant negative duty occurs is as follows: [T]he citizens of a society generally have two obligations to work toward making its social institutions more just. One of these derives from their quite general positive duty to promote the justice of social institutions for the sake of safeguarding the rights and needs of human beings anywhere. The other obligation derives from their negative duty not to collaborate in designing or imposing unjust social institutions upon other human beings. In regard to a citizen's home society, the content of these two obligations is essentially the same. But they differ in stringency. Other things equal, it is worse to let an injustice persist if one is complicit in it than if one is merely an uninvolved bystander. If the injustice manifests itself in human rights deficits, then one is a human rights violator in the first case but not in the second." Pogge, supra note 1, at 16 (emphasis added).
(17.) Id. at 16.
(18.) "The Health Impact Fund (HIF) is a proposed mechanism that "proposes a new way of paying for pharmaceutical innovation by incentivizing the development and delivery of new medicines through pay-for-performance mechanisms." HEALTHIMPACTFUND.ORG (last visited September 11, 2014). Pogge has played a leading role in creating and promoting the HIF proposal.
(19.) TRIPS is the acronym for the international agreement on "Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights," an agreement negotiated in 1994 and administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The greater stringency of the (positive) duty to devise (new) institutional measures that can promote the human right to health care of the poor by bypassing TRIPS might be supported by noting the extreme difficulty, for the foreseeable future, of successfully carrying out the (negative) duty to effect the changes in TRIPS that would appreciably improve the health prospects of the poor. After all, the obstacles are currently enormous to securing international agreement for the elimination of the features of TRIPS that contribute to deteriorating health prospects for the poor.
(20.) Pogge, supra note 2, at 17-18.
Comments by Richard Arneson (1)
Over the past two decades or so, Thomas Pogge has produced creative, insightful, provocative, and plausible analyses of a momentously important issue: what do wealthy countries and wealthy people owe to the global poor? The core of his analysis is that whether or not we have positive duties of beneficence to aid the poor is not so important. This is so because we are anyway wrongfully harming the global poor. Negative duties not to harm are generally more stringent and binding than positive duties to aid, and in view of the magnitude of the harms that severe poverty induces, wrongfully inflicting severe poverty on people is grievously wrong.
His account of how wealthy countries and people harm the poor is complicated. In brief, people in wealthy countries support and benefit from an institutional order that harms the poor. There is a human right, recognized to some degree in current international law, that people not suffer severe poverty. This means that it is of sufficient moral importance that people have secure access to an adequate standard of living to justify duties that fall on other people--collectives and individual--to ensure that people do have secure access. The duties here are duties to respect, protect, facilitate, and provide. But you don't violate the right in question when you just refrain from acting, when you could, to help fulfill the right. A right could be unfulfilled even though no one violates it. Pogge writes that there is a violation "only if there are one or more human agents who are bringing about the un-fulfillment of the human right in question even while they could and should have known that their conduct would have this result " (9). Being a bystander does not suffice to make you a rights violator; you must act in a way that foreseeably causes non-fulfillment, and there must be some alternative action available to you that would instead fulfill or better fulfill the right in question at a cost to you that is not disproportionate to what is at stake.
Pogge's account of how we nowadays massively violate the human rights of the poor weaves together controversial empirical claims. (2) This comment sets these empirical issues aside and focuses on some moral issues.
Some people, including me, hold that "we" (well-off people) are strictly obligated to aid the poor because very often aiding would bring about a better outcome than what would occur if we instead did anything else. The correct morality is act consequentialism: One morally ought always to do some act, among the available alternatives, that would bring about an outcome no worse than what would have been brought about if one had instead done anything else. (3) Pogge disagrees. He accepts a conventional nonconsequentialist morality. Let's not challenge this. For purposes of this discussion we assume that the fundamental moral principles that determine what one ought to do include deontological constraints and options: Each person has a Scheffler prerogative to pursue her own projects and aims, up to some point, even when doing that does not lead to greater good, and each of us is bound up to some point by constraints against wrongfully harming others even when doing so would lead to greater good. Accepting that framework, the question is still open, whether a moral duty of beneficence is a major component of morality. I shall also assume, following R.M. Hare, that in nonconsequentialist morality there are different levels of moral thinking, a level of fundamental principles that determines what we ought to do, and further levels, of law, social norms, and public morality, that are roughly speaking to be assessed as tools for promoting the fulfillment of fundamental level principles. (4) This discussion stays at the fundamental principle level.
To appreciate some of the interesting innovations in Pogge's proposals, consider a claim advanced by Robert Nozick in 1974. (5) Nozick asks us to consider two people who have nothing to do with each other. Maybe they live on separate islands. They could interact. One is better off, one worse off. Nozick says that if the better off person legitimately owns her property and has no strict enforceable moral duty of beneficence to help alleviate the plight of the worse off person, then merely interacting by engaging in mutually voluntary mutually beneficial trades does not trigger new demanding duties on the part of the better off person to improve the condition of the worse off person. This result holds even if trade relations become stable: just engaging in trade does not somehow trigger the application of egalitarian norms such as the difference principle.
Pogge disagrees. He denies the premise, that in this scenario the property holdings of the better off person are (likely to be) morally legitimate, given a bloody world history filled with conquests and massacres and colonial empires. Even if we forget the distant past and restrict our attention to recent history, we cannot use Nozick's thought experiment as a guide to what we owe the global poor, because our current wealth derives from recent immoral conduct. Pogge also denies Nozick's claim that interacting with someone when you have no prior duty to aid that person cannot trigger the application of new egalitarian duties. He asserts that there is a human right to access to a decent standard of living, that if you do not have anything to do with a person you do not violate this right, but if you do interact, your acts affecting the person count as harming her if they make the person foreseeably worse off than she would be if rights were fulfilled provided the cost to you of not harming with respect to that baseline would not be too onerous.
So suppose there is a human right to a decent standard of living and in Nozick's example the worse-off person falls $10,000 below the standard. Again, according to Pogge, if you do not interact with the person at all and do not causally affect her in any way (you don't emit polluting gases that foul her stream, for example), you violate no moral rights of the person. But if you interact, and you are very well off, and could, say trade a banana from the other person for $10,000, you are morally bound to interact on those terms and you violate the person's human rights if you do not. Suppose instead you trade a banana for some mutually agreed mutually beneficial price, say a dollar. According to Pogge you harm the person by interacting with the person in a way that foreseeably brings it about that his human right to access to a decent standard of living is unfulfilled when that is the morally required moral baseline for assessing whether wrongful harm is being inflict, given that you have available anther course of action that is not too costly for you and that would bring it about that the right is fulfilled. Pogge thinks the odd feature of the situation in his characterization of it is just a consequence of there being a morally important difference between doing and allowing and hence between being a bystander with respect to a situation and doing something that affects the outcome.
Some will agree with Pogge that when you have no moral duty to help someone, interacting with the person by way of mutually beneficial mutually agreed upon trade can count as a rights violation, because interaction triggers a higher standard of duty. (6) (For example, many will agree that you have no duty to date or marry any other person, but if you do date or marry, a higher standard of duty is triggered. If you marry, you must marry on egalitarian terms.) I disagree.
Contrary to Pogge, what we should see is that you cannot generally determine whether someone's interaction with another counts as wrongfully harming that person unless you know what duties the person has or does not have to aid the person prior to any interaction. If there is a moral duty to effect easy or moderately difficult rescue when you are uniquely situated to save a person from grave peril, then you should save the person without demanding payment for service, and if you refuse to save the person unless he agrees to payment, you are behaving wrongly, wrongfully harming the person. If on the other hand there is no moral duty of beneficence that includes a duty to effect easy or moderately difficult rescue in these circumstances, then you are at liberty to negotiate with the person and charge a service for providing the service of saving him from peril. If you are under no duty to aid the worse off person in Nozick's isolated islanders example, then you do not wrongfully harm the person when you trade with the person on mutually agreed upon and mutually beneficial terms even if that leaves the person very badly off.
This simple point immediately casts a dark shadow on Pogge's account of how the global international order harms the poor. If France has no duty to have anything at all to do with poor African farmers, it does no wrong to them when it erects trade barriers that ensure that only French farmers have the opportunity to sell food to French food consumers. And no wrong is done when a French state agency, perhaps engaging in hard bargaining, strikes a deal with a consortium of poor African farmers, a deal that leaves the farmers in poverty when the French could afford to trade on terms that eliminate or greatly alleviate that poverty. Of course, there are things the French can do that would wrongfully harm the French farmers even if there no duty of beneficence to improve their condition independently of interaction. If the French lie to the Belgians so that a better food purchase trade deal that Belgians would have struck with the African farmers never gets made, that counts as wrongful harm for familiar reasons. And there are other things the French could do that would unjustly distort the set of options for economic dealing that the African farmers face.
Forget act consequentialism. Recall, we are accepting a nonconsequentialist moral framework. Still, what counts as wrongfully harming people by interacting with them can depend on whether one has strict moral duties to aid them independently of interaction. I say, a reasonable nonconsequentialist morality should include a strong beneficence component, which will then constrain what it is morally acceptable for the better off person to do by way of negotiating and trading in Nozick's example, and will constrain what it is morally acceptable for the French agencies to do by way of negotiating and trading with the poor African farmers just described. What you cannot do is what, as I read him, Pogge does. He says we can set to the side the issue of beneficence, because independently of whether there are positive duties of beneficence and what the shape of such a duty might be, we can show that we wealthy people are wrongfully harming the global poor in everyday actions by causing nonfulfillment of their human right to a decent standard of living.
Turn now to a large and difficult topic, which cannot properly be addressed in a short comment. What I will say just scratches the surface. Pogge's account of how the global order wrongfully harms the poor, and how, therefore, those who support and benefit from the global order wrongfully harm the poor, is fascinating, and raises many issues about the nature of deontological constraints and the nature of collective agency and responsibility and their relationship to individual agency and responsibility. To his credit, as others have observed, Pogge does not leave these larger issues hanging, he works out particular views on them and lays them out for his readers to ponder.
For purposes of this discussion, let us accept collective agency and collective responsibility. (7) Let us assume it makes sense to claim, for example, that the U.S. initiated war on Iraq in 2003 and was morally wrong to do so, and that Wal-Mart ought to establish a network of retail stores selling goods at low prices in India and would be wrong to refrain from doing that. However, nothing immediately follows about individual moral responsibility and individual moral agency. There may be connections, or there may not be. Moreover, in determining what moral constraints apply to an individual and what it is all things considered morally permissible, optional, and required for her to do, the operative idea is counterfactual dependency--what difference would it make if the agent did this rather than some other action available to her. Actual causation is pretty much irrelevant, at most a minor consideration, in determining what the individual should, may, and must do. (8) (Here I assume without argument that a David Lewis type counterfactual dependence account of causation is not the correct account of causation, but still might be highly relevant to an account of practical reason, what reasons we have for acting and omitting.) In considering these matters, we need to consider both evidence-relative and fact-relative understandings of moral permissibility and duty. Also, we should allow that the agent's motives matter in determining the moral permissibility or otherwise of what she does (as in the doctrine of double effect, for example).
Here is the simplest example of divergence between collective assessment of action and individual assessment. Suppose that Michael and I are criminally conspiring to attack and murder Jeff. Jeff has a right tot to be killed, which our killing him would violate. We attack Jeff and kill him. The collective consisting of Dick and Michael has murdered Jeff, and has acted wrongly. Did I actually do wrong in killing him? Suppose I intentionally fired the bullet that killed Jeff and I intended to bring about this result. Surely I wrongly caused Jeff's death and thus wrongfully killed him? Not necessarily. Suppose that Michael and I are going to fire our guns at Jeff from opposite sides of a canyon. In the situation, it is fixed, beyond my power to control, that Michael will shoot Jeff and that this shot will be, in the circumstances, sufficient to cause death. I suddenly have a change of heart, before I commence shooting. I want now only to do the right thing. But a quirky criminal boss has made a credible promise--if my bullet is the one that actually causes Jeff's death, he will bring about some good effect--say causing someone to be prevented from suffering the damage of a mild case of flu. Suppose my only options are two: (1) shoot now and cause Jeff's death, doing him no harm however (Michael's bullet will certainly hit Jeff a half a second later and would cause death if my bullet does not), and bringing it about that the one person avoids the suffering of mild flu, or (2) refraining from shooting Jeff, which will do him no good at all, and will fail to bring it about that one person avoids the suffering of mild flu. Since what deontological morality constrains me not to do is understood in terms of counterfactual dependence, deontological morality says I ought to kill Jeff in the circumstances as described. (Of course, it was no doubt morally very wrong for me to have conspired with Michael in the past as I did.) Also, the collective assessment of the shooting of Jeff is that the conspiratorial collective consisting of Dick and Michael wrongfully killed Jeff and was grievously morally wrong to do so.
Second example: This is borrowed from Judith Thomson. (9) Suppose I hand my wife what I believe is a glass of poison, intending to murder her. In fact the stuff is the medicine she must ingest immediately in order to save her life. What I do is clearly morally wrong in the evidence-relative sense. I say what I do is wrong in the fact-relative sense--I ought not hand my wife the medicine with the aim of killing her. What I ought to do in the fact-relative sense is hand her the medicine with the aim of saving her life. If a third party sees me handing (what I think is poison but which is actually) medicine to my wife, and this bystander appreciates all the relevant facts, he should assist me in making sure my wife gets and ingests what is actually the needed medicine. My acting wrongly, and culpably, in this situation shows up as relevant to what the bystander should do if we add a complication: Someone must die in this situation. The bystander sees that I am about to give an involuntary twitch (of glee, say) that will startle my wife, causing her to drop the glass, just before she drinks the medicine. The bystander can save my wife's life only by shooting me after I hand over the medicine but before I twitch. The facts that I am acting in a way that is morally wrong and grievously culpable bring it about that it is morally required that the bystander act in a way that saves the life of the morally in nocent, my wife, at the expense of the morally culpable, me, given that someone must die. What we must not say here is that I am not violating my wife's rights in the fact-relative sense so I have not forfeited my own right to life, however bad my actions reveals my character to be, so the bystander would be violating my rights if he shot me to save my wife's life, given that my involuntary twitch is not wrongful action on my part. (In this example causation and counterfactual dependence run hand in hand.)
Third example: This is a beneficence case. There is a collective of 99 people that is about to undertake a course of action that will save 1000 lives of people in peril. I could join this collective, and if I do, it happens that my action will cause the saving of the 1000, but my joining and causing makes no difference to the outcome. The collective will save exactly 1000 lives whether or not I join it. I have a single alternative course of action: go off on a rescue operation of my own, which will save one life. On a causal analysis, or alternatively on an analysis that says that if I join a collective and participate in its actions, the outcome of the doings of the collective is attributable to me (maybe I am assigned a per capita share of the total), the judgment is that I should not save the one but should join the collective. This would be wrong. Insofar as I have any beneficence obligation, this is an obligation to make my action as effective as possible (for whatever amount of cost and effort deontological beneficence requires me to put forth). If I join the collective, my act makes no difference, results in zero net lives saved, whereas if I go off on my own, my act makes a difference, results in one extra life saved. Again, causation does not matter to the determination of what I should do, and counterfactual dependence does. (10)
Fourth example. Overdetermination Case. This one involves Michael and Dick again, now acting independently, not in concert. I aim to murder Jeff, and to achieve this end, I substitute sand for water in his canteen as he goes off on a desert hike. In the circumstances, what I do, with evil intent, makes it the case that Jeff will die whatever Michael does, there is nothing that Michael or anyone else can do to save Jeff. Now Michael shoots a hole in Jeff's canteen, bringing it about that he would die in the desert, whether or not there had been water in the canteen, and this bringing it about that Jeff would have died, even if I had not substituted sand for water in his canteen. This might be thought to pose a difficulty for a counterfactual dependence account: In the circumstances, as the situation is described, Jeff would die whatever I do, and Jeff would die whatever Michael does, so neither Michael's action nor mine is a but-for cause of Jeff's wrongful death, so it is not counterfactually true, in the situation, (1) that if I had not put the sand in his canteen, all else being the same, Jeff would have lived, nor is it true (2) that if Michael had not shot a hole in the canteen, all else being the same, Jeff would have lived. So, the claim goes, on counterfactual dependence construals of moral wrongness, neither Michael nor I acts wrongly. This surely defeats the counterfactual dependence account. It is true of course, that Michael and I together killed and indeed murdered Jeff and we together acted wrongly in doing so.
The analysis of such cases is surely going to be delicate, but I deny that there is an insuperable problem here for a counterfactual dependence account of the moral constraints that should play a role in a reasonable deontological nonconsequentialist morality. First, look at Dick's action. He acts with evil intent, and what he does is clearly wrong in the evidence-relative sense (he has no clue that Michael is going to be shooting at the canteen later). And in the fact-relative sense, he does make a difference. He brings it about, as I mentioned previously, that whatever Michael does, Jeff will die, and will in fact die a wrongful death. This is so even though his act is not a but-for cause of death, nor is it obviously the cause of death in the ordinary colloquial sense, nor is it the case that if Dick had not put sand in the canteen, Jeff would not have died, and would not have suffered wrongful death. Regarding Michael, we should note that he acts wrongly in the evidence-relative sense, if he is unaware that there is sand in the canteen, and acts with the intent to murder, on the counterfactual dependence account, and if he is aware that there is sand in the canteen, and is not trying to kill Jeff, he does not act wrongly in the evidence-relative sense. These seem to be the right judgments to make about Michael's actions.
Fifth example. Someone does something that seems pretty bad, wrongfully harmful, but preempts someone doing something worse. Pogge discusses such cases to support the idea that actual causation is the key to the determination of deontological wrongdoing. Suppose I cheat a poor African farmer and carry out a fraudulent exchange at his expense, but if I had not done so, someone else would have interacted with the farmer and done worse. Does the fact that a worse agent is waiting in the wings excuse my wrongdoing, Pogge asks? He expects his readers to agree the answer is "No" and the reason has to do with the fact that my behavior actually caused wrongful harm.
I disagree. First, we need to be clear what the relevant set of options is. If in the right nonconsequentialist morality there is a very strong, enforceable component of morality consisting in a duty of beneficence, then maybe I act wrongly in interacting with this farmer by virtue of failing to carry out my beneficence duties, if they require me to act in a way that benefits him. (Even if my beneficence obligation gives me some leeway as to whom to aid, perhaps any course of actions I could take that would fulfill my beneficence duties would involve helping this African farmer.)
Second, we need to distinguish evidence-relative and fact-relative permissibility. (11) If on the facts as described, in the evidence-relative sense, what I do is impermissible, and done with malicious, evil motive, or simply with a motive that fails adequately to embrace concern for the interests of those who are or might be affected by what I do, in the counterfactual de pendence sense, that result seems to me clearly on the right track and adequate in itself to show the counterfactual dependence view is not leading us astray. If I know that if I don't cheat the farmer, someone else will cheat him in a way that will be worse for her, and there is no way I can interact with her without cheating (that would not be worse for her), and if I have no alternative course of action such as just helping her without going through the rigamarole of exchange, then I say, what I do is fact-relative and evidence-relative permissible. If some of the knowledge claims just assumed become false factual beliefs, but beliefs that coincide with the evidence available to me, then in the evidence-relative sense, my cheating the farmer is morally permissible. If what I do, when I just intend to cheat and have no belief about what would happen if I did not cheat her, but the facts are such that my cheating the farmer makes her better off not worse off, and does not involve violation of any mandatory beneficence obligation I have toward her, then in the fact-relative sense, what I do is morally permissible. These judgments all seem correct, or at least very plausible and justifiable pending some counterargument. So the counterfactual dependence account of moral constraints is not impugned by this sort of example.
Suppose we should accept the claims I have been urging about (1) the independence of collective moral responsibility and assessment from individual moral responsibility and assessment when the individual is or could become a member of the collective, (2) the fact that the moral constraints in deontological morality should be understood as defined in terms of counterfactual dependence not actual causation, and (3) the relevance of motive and intention in determining the permissibility status of what agents do as well as the moral praiseworthiness and blameworthiness of agents in doing what they do (or omit). These claims do not overturn Pogge's claims about how collective responsibility and individual moral responsibility interact and how individuals can be and actually generally are wrongfully harming the poor by benefiting from and supporting the global political order, but they surely radically shift our understanding of what has to be shown to vindicate Pogge's claims.
Just assume for the sake of the argument that the global economic order is unjust and wrongfully harms the poor. This is a collective agency claim. Nothing follows about what individuals morally must do or ought to do. For all that has been said, perhaps when I benefit from the global political order, my benefiting does not make a difference to the global poor, does not in any way constitute wrongful harming of them. (12) Maybe the unjust glob al order builds a bridge and I benefit by driving over the bridge, but if I had not done so, others would have, or anyway my refraining from benefiting would in no way advance the cause of the global poor. Then maybe I am not doing anything impermissible and not morally at fault in taking advantage of the bridge. Or maybe after more reflection we should see that I am doing what is morally wrong. We need to analyze the case with the tools I have suggested we need to use. What is clear is that what Pogge says does not so far warrant the conclusion he wants to draw--we wrongfully harm the global poor.
What holds for benefiting from the global political order also holds for supporting the unjust political order. Suppose I vote for Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who was a liberal member of Congress. Suppose, as I am sure is true, that he does things that prop up the global economic order, which we are supposing is unjust. Still, maybe my vote is inconsequential--makes no difference to anyone. (13) Or maybe my failure to vote for a candidate running against Sanders, a radical Green party member who unlike Sanders is a true fire-breathing opponent of the global political order, is inconsequential, because the candidate would have received no more than ten votes even if I had voted for him--not enough to win. If these are the facts, and I appreciate them, then my failing to vote for the Green Party fire-breather is not morally impermissible in either the fact-relative or evidence relative senses. Maybe the facts are different. Maybe votes indicate support for just or unjust policies, and the more injustice is supported at the polls, the more imperialists and colonialists and neo-liberal globalizers feel free to do bad deeds. Maybe even one vote more or less for injustice makes a difference, or expectably might make a difference. Then if I am deciding whether to vote or instead take my mother out for a beer, I must weigh the difference I would make, being convivial with my mother, versus the difference I would make, voting against injustice by voting for the doomed candidate. In a deontological framework, I should give more weight, in determining what I should do, to negative duties not to harm that to positive duties of beneficence (though I have suggested that a reasonable deontology will make beneficence a morally very large component of my duties). But un less we are moral absolutists who say moral duties not to harm wrongfully may not be acted against come what may, whatever the consequences for nonrightholders if we do not act in this case against the constraining moral duty, then sometimes the calculation will, for example, yield the result that I morally may or must be convivial with my mother even at a cost of (very slightly) supporting injustice.
So "Are We Violating the Human Rights of the World's Poor?" My suspicion is that we are, and on a massive scale. But I do not see that the framework of analysis that Pogge proposes and the arguments he makes are together adequate to yield an answer to his question. And so far as I can see, this result is robust with respect to the extent to which we agree or disagree with his controversial empirical claims woven into his arguments.
(1.) Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego.
(2.) On the empirical issues, see, for example, Joshua Cohen, Philosophy, Social Science, Global Poverty, in Thomas Pogge and His Critics (Alison M. Jaggar, ed., 2010).
(3.) To a first approximation, this is Peter Singer's view. Peter Singer, Famine, Affluence, and Morality, 1 Phil. & PUB. Affairs 229 (1972). Singer in this essay does not quite espouse act utilitarianism, or any version of act consequentialism, but the differences between act utilitarianism and what he is committed to in that essay are minor. (One large question, though, is whether in being committed to act consequentialism as what morality requires one is thereby committed to act consequentialism as an account of practical reason--of what one has reason to do all things considered.
(4.) R. M. Hare, Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method, and Point (1981). "Roughly speaking," because a deontological account of levels of moral thinking will choose derivative level norms not simply according to the (deontically weighted) consequences of their acceptance and implementation, but also by giving weight to respecting constraints in the process of establishing the norms at the derivative level and sustaining them in operation at that level.
(5.) Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia at ch. 3 (1974).
(6.) According to A. J. Julius, if you act toward another with the aim of inducing that person to act in a way that will redound to your benefit, special moral duties are triggered, that are dormant if you have nothing at all to do with the person. See A.J. Julius, Basic Structure and the Value of Equality, 31 Phil. & pub. Affairs 321 (2003).
(7.) On collective agency, see, e.g. Philip Pettit, Responsibility Incorporated, 117 Ethics 171 (2007). For an example of someone who thinks we can read off individuals wrongdoing from the fact that the individual participates in a collective that is guilty of wrongdoing, see Christopher Kutz, Complicity: Ethics and Law for a Collective Age (2000).
(8.) Here I believe I am following Shelly Kagan, Do I Make a Difference?, 39 Phil. & Pub. Affairs 105 (2011), though Kagan is discussing consequentialist morality. For an early statement of the idea that counterfactual dependence is what matters for the determination of the permissibility status of actions, see Jonathan Glover, It Makes No Difference Whether or Not I Do It, 49 Aristotelian Soc. Supp. VOL. 171 (1975). To my knowledge, no one has worked out what the counterfactual dependence account would imply for a deontological morality, but that probably just reflects limits of my knowledge of the relevant literature. The idea that the David Lewis type view of causation, though inadequate as an account of causation, is clearly adequate for practical reason, is forcefully argued by Christopher Hitchcock.
(9.) Judith Jarvis Thomson, Self-Defense, 20 Phil. & Pub. Affairs 283 (1991). My views on the nature of moral rights are heavily indebted to Thomson's views, as articulated in such works as her The Realm of Rights (1990).
(10.) Derek Parfit discusses similar cases, including cases in which, he claims, many people together cause grave harm, but no individual's contribution makes any perceptible difference. Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons (1984). See Kagan, supra note 8.
(11.) See Parfit, supra note 10.
(12.) Andrew Altman and Christopher Wellman espouse a view on benefiting from an unjust order that differs from the line this comment affirms. They say that it may be acceptable to accept benefits of injustice provided it is difficult or very costly to refrain from accepting the benefits and provided one compensates the people treated unjustly, by working to end the injustice in question. Andrew Altman and Christopher Heath Wellman, A Liberal Theory of International Justice ch. 6 (2009). Whether or not one agrees with their specific proposal (I do not), this illustrates the point that it is not straightforward, what a deontological morality ought to say about the permissibility or otherwise of benefiting from immoral actions (one's own or others). My own doubts about their view start by wondering: If there is a problem about accepting benefits of injustice, why is working to do away with the injustice adequate to deal with the problem? The chances one's advocacy for justice will be effective may be slight, or even nonexistent. One might suppose that if one accepts ill-gotten gains, one must compensate and maybe fully compensate those who have been treated unjustly. And how much compensation is owed? Suppose one gets a huge benefit from ill-gotten gains (the bad dictator builds economic infrastructure that is incredibly productive). Suppose the unjustly treated lose $10 in total but the total benefits to passive recipients of ill-gotten gains is, in aggregate, $30. Must one give the whole $30 back to the unjustly treated, or $10, or must each passive recipient give back a per capita share of the $10, or of the $30, or what?
(13.) See Jason Brennan, The Ethics of Voting (2011) (containing a thorough analysis of the causal consequences, or lack thereof, of individual acts of voting.) Brennan opts for a moral view that espouses deontological duties regarding voting that do not turn on whether one's vote makes any difference to what happens. For example, he holds it is morally wrong to vote if you do not have reasonable grounds for believing you are voting for the just cause, the side that is morally right--a view which conflicts with the view I assert in this comment.
Comments by Ann Cudd (1)
In this paper, Thomas Pogge aims to extend his argument for the claim that we (relatively affluent persons) have a negative duty to do our part to end global poverty, in order to show that by not discharging this negative duty we are violating the human rights of the poor. Many, including Pogge, have argued for a duty to the poor. His distinctive contribution to the literature is to argue that there is not only an open-ended positive duty to improve the global institutional order, nor that there is simply a collective duty for some collective bodies to improve the global institutional order. As contrasted with Peter Singer's argument for a positive duty to aid the poor, (2) Pogge emphasizes the negative duty aspect of his argument using the active language of violating the human rights of the poor. Like Singer, Pogge attempts to make the argument that each individual has a negative duty by emphasizing that this negative duty violation is something we do as individual actors. His strong claim is that "human rights violations are crimes actively committed by particular human agents," and that we are committing human rights violations by supporting institutions that continue to reproduce extreme poverty. (3)
Pogge distinguishes between two kinds of human rights violations: interactional, where agents do things that avoidably deprive human beings of secure access to their rights, and institutional, where agents design and impose institutional arrangements that deprive them of that access. It is not news that there are individuals who violate the human rights of the poor in an interactional sense; there are numerous dictators who have done this by deploying their armies to block foreign aid from reaching the poor, for example. Pogge focuses, in this paper, on institutional violations, since that implicates all of "us"--average citizens of relatively stable, wealthy countries. And yet he argues that we each are implicated as individuals in institutional violations of human rights. This is a bold, challenging claim; more personally challenging than either Singer's arguments for positive duties that individuals have to the poor or Pogge's institutional-based arguments for our collective duties to the poor.
Pogge cites the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as evidence that there is wide acceptance of human rights including the right to secure access to the means of basic subsistence, and he cites World Bank statistics to show that this right is not fulfilled for over a billion human beings. Although there are interactional causes for some severe poverty, Pogge argues that it is primarily caused by the institutional background of the global economic system. He acknowledges the gap between a right being unfulfilled and there being a responsibility to fulfill that right on the part of someone, and sets out to bridge that gap. Institutional human rights violations involve non-fulfillment of human rights combined with a certain causal responsibility for this non-fulfillment. Pogge aims to show that we each of us--are causally responsible for this non-fulfillment, and hence are actively committing this crime against humanity.
Our causal responsibility stems from the fact that we are complicit in the global institutional order that creates severe poverty or allows it to continue by creating obstacles to the economic development of the poor. Pogge claims that we are complicit because we authorize the global order through our citizenship in countries that could change the order in a way that would dismantle these obstacles and end global poverty. Such obstacles are unjust. Not only do we have a duty to construct just institutions, we also have a negative duty not to collaborate in the imposition of unjust institutions. We violate the human rights of the poor when we impose unjust institutions on them. In this way we are not just uninvolved bystanders who could rescue the poor, but we are complicit in the construction and maintenance of the very conditions that create poverty. We must therefore desist. Furthermore, because each of us (the relatively affluent in relatively affluent countries) is complicit in the construction and maintenance of these conditions, we each have a duty to repair if we cannot individually dismantle the poverty creating conditions.
Pogge identifies six specific ways in which the global order is harmful or unfair to the poor: (1) It permits unjust rulers to sell the natural resources of their countries; (2) It permits banks in affluent countries to lend money to such rulers and then compels people to repay even after the ruler is gone; (3) Affluent countries facilitate embezzlement of funds by public officials in less developed countries by allowing their banks to accept these funds; (4) Affluent countries facilitate tax evasion in less developed countries through lax accounting standards for multinational corporations; (5) Affluent countries account for disproportionate share of global pollution; (6) Affluent countries erect trade barriers which poor countries cannot match, and destroy more jobs in less developed countries. These are specific ways that we cause harm and violate the human rights of the poor. Thus, we must desist from causing harm in these ways.
In my comments I will briefly discuss some of these ways in which Pogge claims we collectively violate the human rights of the poor and then ask whether he succeeds in showing that we each have a negative duty as an individual in these respects. Then I will discuss the particular ways Pogge thinks we can discharge our individual duties with regard to our violations of the human rights of the poor. I raise three kinds of problems for Pogge's argument: epistemic problems, a feasibility problem, and collectivity problems.
The first three ways the global order harms the poor involve our recognition of ruling elites of poor countries as the legitimate rulers, which allows them to sell natural resources or take loans on behalf of the country. Pogge argues that purchasing natural resources from illegitimate rulers, or giving loans to such rulers, and allowing them to deposit funds from these activities into secure bank accounts are ways in which we are complicit with the human rights violations attendant on severe poverty. Therefore, we should prohibit such activities by private businesses or banks and prohibit international institutions from providing them with loans.
Although it is clear in the case of some horrendous dictators that no business should be done with them, there are line-drawing problems with the general proscription not to trade with dictators or allow them access to international banking. Is the criterion for such shunning set by the specific project (in the case of loans) or by the general behavior of the ruler? If the latter, then how bad does the dictator need to be? Where do we draw the line between say governments that come into power through thoroughly unfair elections and those that do so through one-party rule? Furthermore, we might end up disallowing projects that are actually helpful to the population, since even dictators sometimes do some good for their people. If we choose the former, how bad does the project have to be? How do we draw a line between projects that are motivated by greed or vanity and those that are simply unwise? Making these judgments would seriously encroach on the ability of a people to collectively self-govern, and would open us to charges of elitism or worse. Because the answers to these questions are not clear, there is an epistemic problem with knowing precisely what we should do.
Regarding the fifth point, pollution by affluent countries affects the global poor insofar as it creates global climate changes that result in disastrous weather events and rising sea levels. But much pollution is created within poor countries by natural resource extraction and factories that produce goods that are sold to the affluent. The difficulty with reducing it is that economic growth almost inevitably leads to greater pollution, and the economic growth of poor countries is necessary for a long-term solution to global poverty. What is needed is more growth by poor countries and less by affluent ones. But how to bring that about is very unclear. Furthermore, much of the problem is how that growth is distributed within poor countries. It is difficult to see how effective growth could be engineered economically and politically. So we cannot hold individuals responsible for finding the solution in order to call on their governments to bring it about. Again there is a severe epistemic problem for individuals to find out what should be done to avoid violating the human rights of the poor.
Finally, Pogge is clearly right that trade protectionism by affluent coun tries is wrong and should be ended. Poor countries should be given more latitude to protect their industries. But the combination of trade protectionism and liberalism that will best serve the poor is less clear.
In general, I agree with Pogge's points about how relatively affluent countries are violating the human rights of the poor. I think that there are some questions about how exactly we should change the global order to stop violating these rights. (In this way, the case of ending global poverty is quite different from ending slavery, an analogy that Pogge presses.) Knowing which action to perform at the individual level depends on knowing what collective action will result in avoiding violating the human rights of the poor. But as we have seen, it is often unclear what exactly to do, and some individual and collective actions might actually create more harm than good.
There is also a feasibility problem. Pogge's argument depends on the claim that there is a feasible alternative system that would secure the human rights of the poor. If there were no alternative, then there would be no duty to do otherwise. (5) Pogge responds that even if there is not a feasible alternative system that would solve the problem of poverty, we can at least say that if we stop doing the six things he lists, then we would not be violating the human rights of the poor even if poverty remains. Just as slavery should be ended even if the freed slaves end up being equally poor and miserable, so our collective violations of the human rights of the poor in these six ways should end even if doing so does not end poverty. A closer analogy would be if slavery were inevitable even if I quit being a slaveholder. It is still clear that I have a duty not to enslave, but it is only a question of who has the dirty hands.
The most difficult part of Pogge's argument to follow concerns the claim that individuals are obligated to do particular things either to desist from these collective violations of human rights or to end global poverty. There is a gap between what Pogge thinks we must do to discharge our negative duty as an individual and what it takes to secure the human rights of the poor. The gap can be seen when one considers that acting as an individual, no matter how ethically or charitably, cannot guarantee that the human rights of the poor will be secure. This is what we might call the collectivity problem, which is that the only way to change the global order is to act collectively, and that is not guaranteed by individuals' actions.
In each of the six ways Pogge lists that we are violating the human rights of the poor, we are doing so collectively, through our governments and the supranational organizations that we have collectively erected. No single individual (unless we are those particular individuals who have special roles in those institutions) can prevent a governments from allowing dictators to sell their countries' natural resources, set banking regulations so that dictators cannot harbor ill-gotten gains or so that companies cannot evade taxes, or set the conditions on international loans. Nor can that individual (unless she happen to be the owner or chief executive officer or board member of a large company) affect the level of global pollution. Most individuals can have no effect whatsoever on any of these things. If I were the last individual needed to join a political effort to change laws, I could have an effect. But it is rare for any one of us to be that person, and even more rare for us to know that we are. But this is what it would take to argue that I have a duty to act as an individual to desist from one of these six ways that we collectively violate the human rights of the poor.
Likewise, no individual can directly end global poverty. Perhaps there are a few individuals who could stall poverty for a short time by spending all of their wealth on feeding, buying medicines, and building shelter and medical facilities, but this would be a temporary fix. Thus, again we need to engage in collective action to solve the problem. Pogge argues that this need for collective action does not mean that we have only collective duties, which can only be discharged collectively. If we had only a collective duty, then we would need others to perform in order for each of us to have the duty to also perform. He claims that each one of us has a duty to do our own part even if others do not do theirs.
Even if an individual is obligated to act to end poverty despite the inability of the individual to guarantee that by so acting poverty will be significantly diminished, it is not clear what the individual is obligated to do. Pogge thinks individuals can discharge their duties in two ways. We can join an effective political action to change global institutions, and we can contribute a portion of our wealth to the effort. He mentions but dismisses massive development aid, since that is not cost effective or sustainable. It is better to collectively act to change the institutional order so that it does not pose an obstacle, to the ability of the poor to develop their economies enough to rise out of poverty. Pogge also dismisses the option of emigrating to a poor country to divest oneself of the duty to help the poor. The better option is to pay compensation to support "effective international agents or non-governmental organizations," in order to reduce the human rights deficits. He offers a way to calculate the compensation that a relatively affluent person owes, but this solution again falls prey to the collectivity problem. Such a contribution cannot make any noticeable difference to reducing global poverty unless others do their part. If the others do not do their part, then one's contribution is no more a reparation or a desisting from violating the rights of the poor than doing nothing. Now, one might respond that contributing to Oxfam or some other effective global charity reduces some of the misery for some of the global poor, and if this is the best one can do, it is better than nothing. But this kind of charitable giving, like development aid (only worse, since it is less) is not going to change the global order. If this is the negative duty we turn out to have, the argument ends with a less effective contribution than we might have hoped for.
In conclusion, Pogge offers an aggressive, challenging position concerning our duty to the world's poor. In order not to violate their rights, we each of us relatively affluent persons--must act. We not only have a collective duty that can only be discharged in a collective, we also have an individual duty to inspire collective action or at minimum to give a sum of our money to an effective charity to combat poverty. I have raised three potential problems for his view. First, there are epistemic problems with knowing exactly what is to be done in order to do the best we can to eradicate poverty. Second there is a question about whether a feasible alternative global order exists, though this does not take away from the point that feasible alternative or no, we must avoid actively harming the rights of the poor. Third, and most significantly, there are collectivity problems with claiming that one has a negative duty to do something that may be completely ineffective in stopping the rights violations that gave rise to the negative duty. In the end, it seems, we are left with an individual duty that will not set us on a path to ending global poverty.
(1.) University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kansas.
(2.) Peter Singer, Famine, Affluence, and Morality, 1 Phil & Pub. Aff. 229-43 (1972).
(3.) Thomas Pogge, Are We Violating the Human Rights of the World's Poor?, 14:2 Yale Hum. Rts. & dev. L.J., 1, 18 (2011).
(4.) The shocking growth of pollution in China to accompany its economic growth is just a recent example of this phenomenon.
(5.) See Mathias Risse, Do We Owe the Global Poor Assistance or Rectification ?, 19 Ethics & Int'l Aff. 9 (2005); Thomas Pogge, Severe Poverty as a Violation of Negative Duties, 19 Ethics & Int'l Aff 55 (2005).
(1.) Thomas Pogge, Are We Violating the Human Rights of the World's Poor? in 14:2 Yale Hum. Rts. & Dev. L.J. 1 (2011) [hereinafter Pogge, Violating the Human Rights].
(2.) U.N. Economic and Social Counsel, General Comment on the Right to Adequate Food, [paragraph] 15, U.N. Doc. E/C.12/1999/5 (May 12,1999).
(3.) Email from Branko Milanovic, now Visiting Presidential Professor, City of New York Graduate Center, to author (Dec. 12, 2012) (on file with author).
(5.) Table A3: Top fractiles income shares (including capital gains) in the U.S., Tables and Figures avilable at http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/TabFig2012prel.xls, updating Thomas Piketti & Emmanuel Saez, Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998, 118(1) Q. J. ECON., 1 (2003), http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/pikettyqje.pdf. See Table A3 in tables and figures. The national income share of the richest one percent rose from 8.95% to 22.46% in the same period--a 151% gain above the rise in the U.S. average income. The national income share of the richest 10% rose from 33.49% to 50.42%--a 51% gain above the rise in the U.S. average income.
(6.) This hugely expanded income share of the very rich is all the more remarkable as the U.S. income distribution had become steadily more equal in the 1928-78 period, through Democratic and Republican administrations, just as it has since that time become steadily more unequal regardless of the party in power.
(7.) Money and Politics: Ask What Your Country Can Do For You, The ECONOMIST (Oct. 1, 2011), available at www.economist.com/node/21531014.
(8.) See Raquel M. Alexander, Stephen W. Mazza, and Susan Scholz, Measuring Rates of Return on Lobbying Expenditures: An Empirical Case Study of Tax Breaks for Multinational Corporations, 25 J.L. & Pol'y 401 (2009). The 93 corporations that lobbied for the American Jobs Creation Act spent $282.7 million on their effort and harvested $62.5 billion in tax savings. Id. at 404.
(9.) Id. at n.6.
(10.) Martin Hearson and Richard Brooks, Calling Time, ACTION AID (2010), available at www.actionaid.org.uk/doc_lib/calling_time_on_tax_avoidance.pdf.
(11.) Raquel M. Alexander et al., supra note 8, at 402-03.
(12.) See Hans and Sophie Scholl, WIKIPEDIA, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_and_Sophie_Scholl (last updated June 30, 2014).
(13.) See Willy Brandt, WIKIPEDIA, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willy_Brandt (last updated Sept. 12,2014).
(14.) See Oskar Schindler, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oskar_Schindler (last updated Sept. 3, 2014).
(15.) Donations to the NGO Samasource will accomplish this. See How We Work, SAMASOURCE, http://samasource.org/mission/how-we-work/ (last visited Sept. 15, 2014).
(16.) See Derek Parfit, Reasons And Persons 80-81 (1984).
(17.) Alistair MacLeod, infra Appendix B, at 96.
(19.) Id.at 98.
(22.) Pogge, Violating the Human Rights, supra note 1, at 16.
(23.) Richard Arneson, infra Appendix C.
(24.) Id.at 106.
(25.) We may suppose that any positive duties to aid are inapplicable here because helping the Africans would be too costly or too risky for the French.
(26.) Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia 331 (1974).
(27.) Richard Arneson, infra Appendix C, at 105.
(28.) Consider also a two-person case. You undertake a dangerous rescue of a person in mortal peril after he agrees to become your slave for life. Is there then no injustice in his lifelong enslavement? Would you not be harming him if you kept him as a slave until he dies?
(29.) Richard Arneson, infra Appendix C, at 107.
(30.) "At least" because, if three people together murder a fourth, then each of the three may be considered a murderer, i.e., as on par with someone who committed murder on his own.
(31.) I agree with Cudd that we often don't know as much as we should about the likely effects of possible reform initiatives. Ann Cudd, infra Appendix D, at 116-17. We ought to do more social science research aimed at estimating the human-rights impact of feasible institutional-design options.
(32.) Thomas Pogge, The Health Impact Fund: Enhancing Justice and Efficiency in Global Health, 13 J. Hum. Dev. & Capabilities 537 (2012).
(33.) Ann Cudd, infra Appendix D, at 118.
Thomas Pogge, Director of the Global Justice Program and Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University.
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|Title Annotation:||includes critics' comments in appendices|
|Publication:||Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2014|
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